In addition to the temporary closure of Portugal’s borders during the papal visit, comes news that all of the country’s services will shut down on Friday 12 May.
The decision, which was made public on Thursday, comes as Pope Francis will be at the Fátima Sanctuary to commemorate the centennial of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children, which will be marked on 13 May.
During the visit, two of the shepherd children will be canonised.
But following news that the state employees will be allowed to travel to Fátima, or wherever they please on Friday 12 May, Socialist MP Tiago Barbosa Rodrigues lashed out at the decision.
“It is not common to find mistakes in the Government which I support, but here is one which is especially ridiculous”, said the MP in a post on Facebook.
He also questioned the decision to make the concession to civil servants for the visit of a head of state, which he said that it is even worse if the move is based on religious reasons.
He argued that if a day off is given for the papal visit, then the same should be done for the visits of other religious leaders, especially as Portugal is a secular state and neutral to all faiths, practices and beliefs.
“Or, here is a great idea, let’s not give any days off”, said the MP.
On a political level, the Left Bloc has not opposed the decision and the Communist Party has not yet issued any public statements. The CDS-PP People’s Party has meanwhile come out in support of the move.
Back in 2010, during the last Papal visit, a day off on 13 May was decreed as it fell on a working day.
Pope Francis will be the fourth head of the Vatican to visit Portugal. Paul VI visited in 1967, followed by John Paul II in 1982, 1991 and 2000 and Benedict XVI in 2010.
During the visit, Pope Francis will meet with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister António Costa.
In related news, Portugal’s open borders will be suspended from midnight on 10 May to midnight on 14 May.
During this period, all visitors to Portugal, such as those from Spain, will need to produce their passports or identity documents when crossing into the country.
Portugal previously reintroduced border controls during the 2004 European football championships and when it hosted the 2010 NATO summit.