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Christmas is returning to Cuba

New York, Dec 2 - The Communist Party has recommended that Dec. 25 be reinstated as a national holiday, the Washington Post said.

It banned the holiday in 1969, claiming that Cuba's enemies had manipulated religious believers and that the day off interfered with the sugar harvest.

Party leader Fidel Castro is expected to accept the recommendation next week.

The party announced its position Dec. 1 on the front page of its official newspaper, Granma.

It said it wants to establish a stronger relationship with the Vatican, citing issues including Third World debt, poverty, and social inequality.

It hopes to participate in "the broad possibilities of cooperation that are opening up to all people of good faith, regardless of any political, ideological, or religious differences, to work together for the good of humanity," a statement said.

The announcement shows the government is warming up to the Church, some say.

"The government is listening to the Church," Rolando Suarez of Cuban Catholic Relief Services said.

Cuba's Catholic bishops issued a statement proclaiming that the move recognizes Cuba's Christian heritage and "reaffirms our authentic traditions."

The Church has been granted greater freedoms since Pope John Paul II visited in January, including the use of state radio and TV channels for religious broadcasts and permission to hold open-air Masses.

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