VATICAN CITY ( - Communist Chinese officials denied passports for two bishops who had been invited by Pope John Paul II to attend the ongoing Synod on Asia, the Italian ANSA news agency reported on Monday.

      ANSA quoted Bishop Mathias Duan Yinming in Beijing as saying that he and Bishop Joseph Xu Zhixuan had been refused permission by the government religious affairs office. He said the officials blamed the refusal on the Vatican's lack of diplomatic relations with Communist China, a situation caused by the Vatican's diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and because the Vatican did not ask permission from the Communist-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

      Bishops Duan and Xu are members of the Patriotic Association, which eschews ties with the Universal Church and certain Catholic doctrines including the primacy of the pope. Most Catholics in China worship in underground churches with bishops and priests who maintain loyalty and fealty to the Church and the Pope.

      The Vatican said it was still waiting for clarity on whether the two bishops would attend the synod. "The Holy See ... is awaiting a precise indication from the Chinese authorities," chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement. The month-long synod discussing the role of the Church in Asia began on April 19. Bishop Duan is 90 years old and was consecrated as a bishop in 1949. Bishop Xu is 82 years old and was consecrated as a bishop by Bishop Duan.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

April 28, 1998 volume 9, no. 82         DAILY CATHOLIC