A Brief Introduction to the Macau Catholic Diocese
The Catholic Diocese of Macau was erected on 23 January 1576 by Pope Gregory XIII through the Bull super Specula Militantis Ecclesiae, the first diocese created in the Far East in modern times. The earliest diocese in the Far East – the archdioceseof Beijing – was erected in China in the year 1307, during the reign of the Yuan Emperor Chengzong. Then in 1313, during the reign of Yuan Emperor Renzong, the Diocese of Quanzhou in Fookien was established. In spite of the vigor of the two diocese, the work there stalled unfortunately because of lack of missionaries to continue the mission.
In the early years, the Macau Diocese was responsible for a wide swath of Asia, including China, Korea, Japan, Tonkin (North Vietnam), and the islands around the continental Far East.
Saint Catherine of Siena and St. Francis Xavier were the patron saints of the Macau Diocese since the beginning, thus highlighting the missionary character of the territory. But aside from spreading the Gospel, she also had to promote scientific exchange and moral uprightness; thus, the Diocesan motto “Scientia et Virtus” (knowledge and virtue).
The first Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese was Father Melchior Carneiro, S.J. He founded the Macau Holy House of Mercy, the Saint Raphael Hospital, and the Leprosarium near the present San Lazarus Church. The Jesuits had already established themselves in Macau in 1565, and had also opened a College. At the end of the 16th centrury their school had been recognized as a university. Their church would be gutted by fire twice. What remained of the 1835 fire in now the famed Ruins of Saint Paul.
Aside from the Jesuits, the Franciscans, the Augustinians, the Dominicans and the cloistered nuns of Saint Clare (Poor Clares) also established themselves in Macau during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Just after the establishment of the Diocese of Macau, it became the jump-off point from missionaries going to different parts of the Far East. After 400 years, the different areas administered by the diocese have grown and developed into more than 100 autonomous circumscriptions. The presnt scope of the Diocese of Macau covers the territory of Macau, with six parishes, three quasi-parishes 31 educational establishments, 23 social service institutions. Moreover, it runs a Social Communication Centre, publishing outfits and pastoral centers. There are 81 priests in the Diocese, 29 brothers, 199 religious sisters, and around 30,000 lay faithful.