Forty-nine bishops from Red-ruled countries secured permission to attend the Second Vatican Council.
Most numerous are bishops from Poland and Yugoslavia. But other bishops are from Cuba, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and East Germany.
Only one of the three cardinals whose nations have been taken over by communism is present. He is Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Primate of Poland and Archbishop of Warsaw. The other two cardinals are impeded in their duties.
Among the conspicuously absent are bishops from mainland China where brutal physical persecution of the Church and its officials continues and where the regime has set up a fake “Catholic Church.”
Nineteen of the 21 Yugoslav bishops are here. The two who are not stayed home because of illness.
Of Poland’s 64 bishops, 36 reportedly applied to the regime for travel permits and 17 received them.
Although Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty, Primate of Hungary, still remains in refuge in the U.S. Budapest legation, the acting chairman of the Hungarian hierarchy is present.
He is Bishop Endre Hamvas of Csanad, who is accompanied by Bishop Sandor Kovacs of Szombathely and Msgr. Pal Brezanocsy, Apostolic Administrator of the Eger archdiocese.
The second cardinal from a communist country who is not here is Manuel Cardinal Arteaga, Archbishop of Havana. The 82-year-old prelate is in refuge in the Argentine embassy in Havana.
Three bishops are here from Cuba, however. They are Bishops Jose Dominguez y Rodriguez of Matanzas; Carlos Riu Angles of Camaguey; and Manuel Rodriguez Rozas of Pinar del Rio.
Exiled Cuban bishops also are present, but their exact number was not determined in the preliminary survey since many of them registered under the country in which they have taken refuge.
Three members of the hierarchy of Czechoslovakia are present, although Archbishop Josef Beran of Prague is confined by the Reds in an unknown place and all other surviving Czechoslovak Ordinaries are either imprisoned or otherwise restricted.
The Czechoslovak bishops are Auxiliary Bishop Frantisek Tomasek of Olomouc; Bishop Ambroz Lazik, Apostolic Administrator of Trnava; and Bishop Eduard Necsey, Apostolic Administrator of Nitra.
The only council Father from Bulgaria is Bishop Simeon Kokoff from the Sofia and Plovdiv apostolic vicariate.
The delegation from East Germany is led by Archbishop Alfred Bengsch, Bishop of Berlin, who resides in the Soviet zone. He came with Bishops Otto Spuelbeck of Meissen, Auxiliary Bishop Friedrich Rintelen of Pad- erbom, who resides in Magdeburg, East Germany; and Auxiliary Bishop Bernhard Schraeder of Osnabrueck, who resides in Schwerin, East Germany.
All the bishops who hold communist travel permits are restricted to a degree since their re-entry permits are valid only for limited periods.
There are other conditions. For example, the bishops from East Germany found it necessary not to attend a reception given at the German embassy to the Holy See.
All visitors from behind the Iron Curtain are extremely reluctant to talk of their experiences, even on a strictly off-the-record basis.
—Father Placid Jordan, O.S.B.
From Council Daybook: Vatican II, Sessions 1 and 2, Floyd Anderson, ed. © 1965 by The National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. Used by permission of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the successor organization to the NCWC. All rights reserved.