China, which bans its Catholics from recognising the Pope, has turned down a Vatican invitation to four Chinese bishops to go to Rome, saying it showed no respect.
Beijing has not had diplomatic ties with the Vatican since 1951, two years after the Communist takeover in China, and insists that relations cannot be resumed unless Rome severs links with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.
The four bishops invited to Rome were on a list of prelates from around the world that the Pope had named to be members of next month’s synod, the Vatican said on Thursday.
"The act (invitation) goes against the original good intention of the Pope and shows no respect for China’s 5 million Catholics, bishops, the Chinese Catholic Bishops College and the China Patriotic Catholic Association and for the decision-making power of the two Chinese Catholic groups," a spokesman for the two groups was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying in a report late on Saturday.
The China Patriotic Catholic Association is the state-backed Catholic church. Catholics who recognize the Vatican are forced to worship underground.
"If the Holy See has deep sincerity to improve China-Vatican relations, we hope they take real actions, rather than put up new barriers," the spokesman said.