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Cuba marks Easter as public holiday

03:32pm | Fri, April 06, 2012

Communist Cuba is marking Easter with a public holiday Friday, for the first time in decades.  This follows Pope Benedict's visit to the country last week, where he requested the move.

Religious holidays in Cuba were cancelled after the 1959 revolution, and fewer than 10-percent of Cubans are practising Catholics.

Nonetheless, the Church is the most influential organization outside the Communist government. 

The Cuban government said it granted the request as a mark of respect, and to commemorate the "transcendental nature" of the Pope's visit.  The Pope's predecessor, John Paul II, made a similar request during the last papal visit to Cuba in 1998, successfully persuading then-leader Fidel Castro to recognize Christmas as a public holiday.