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Back home, pope celebrates Palm Sunday

GREGORIO BORGIA/AP

Pope Benedict XVI looked rested Sunday after a 6-day trip to Mexico and Cuba.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI began the Catholic Church’s Holy Week celebrations with Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square and good news from Cuba.

On Saturday, Cuba’s communist government agreed to Benedict’s request to make Good Friday a holiday, which he made during his visit to the Caribbean island last week. The day, which is celebrated this Friday, marks the solemn commemoration of Christ’s death.

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In the Holy Land, hundreds of Christian pilgrims also marked Palm Sunday, with Masses and processions retracing Jesus’s triumphant return to Jerusalem.

Benedict traveled into St. Peter’s Square on the back of a white jeep at the start of Palm Sunday Mass. The pope and the cardinals who proceeded him clutched braided palm fronds, while ordinary faithful carried olive and palm branches to recreate the welcome Jesus received. St. Peter’s was nearly full under cloudy, chilly skies.

The pope looked rested despite having just returned from an exhausting, six-day trip to Mexico and Cuba, where he met with former and current presidents Fidel and Raul Castro.

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