The head of America's Roman Catholic bishops declared, "We are in a most serene time," even though they had just ended a week that included open dispute with the Vatican and revival of their sniping at the government.

Archbishop John L. May of St. Louis was referring in particular on Thursday to the U.S. church's relations with Pope John Paul II and the Vatican.He pronounced the pope "bullish on the church in the United States" and dismissed public spats with Rome as merely "signs of a church that is essentially open."

In fact, he and fellow members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops seemed little troubled by any of the controversy that swirled about them during their annual meeting that concluded Thursday.

During the week, the bishops:

- Took on the Soviet Union, decrying "sustained and comprehensive" religious persecution in Eastern Europe and encouraging the U.S. government to hold out prospects of better relations as an incentive to win greater religious freedom.

- Blasted a U.S. immigration law they say leads employers to discriminate in hiring and firing Hispanics out of ignorance concerning potential penalties.

-Finally, sent back a Vatican draft document as "unsuitable as a basis for discussion," thus rejecting both the scholarship of the draft and its contention that national bishops conferences have no real authority.