At the advice of the nation's bishops, Pope John Paul II will bypass South Africa - the most populous and dominant country in southern Africa - when he begins a visit to the region Saturday.

South African Catholics have written to newspapers and their church, expressing anger and disappointment that the pope is not stopping in their land. He will visit Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana and Swaziland, all of which border South Africa.Some South Africa Catholics said they would withhold donations that would be used to finance the pope's visit to the poorer, neighboring countries.

The dispute is part of a growing tension between the South African government and church leaders who actively oppose apartheid, under which the nation's black majority has no voice in national affairs.