Macau, The Catholic Church in
MACAU, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
Macau (Aomen in Chinese) is a special administrative region of china located some 40 miles west of hong kong, comprising: (1) a small peninsula projecting from the mainland Chinese province of Guangdong (Kwan-tung) on the western side of the Pearl River estuary, and (2) the two small islands of Taipa and Coloane. The region was settled in the 1550s by Portuguese merchants involved in the trade with Japan and China. Portugal administered the area as an overseas territory until December 20, 1999, when it reverted to Chinese sovereignty, becoming a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
The Church in Colonial Macau. With the arrival of the Portuguese, missionaries used Macau as an important haven of rest after a long voyage from Europe and as a strategic base for the evangelization of Japan and China. Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and above all, Jesuits transformed the small fishing village on the peninsula into a religious stronghold that received the extraordinary name the City of the Name of God. The Jesuit Visitor to the East, Alessandro valignano, did much of his organization of the Jesuit Far Eastern missions in Macau. It was from Macau that in 1583 he dispatched Michele Ruggieri and Matteo ricci to China, reversing what had until then been a missionary failure. In 1576, Pope gregory xiii detached Macau from Malacca and made it a diocese with jurisdiction over Japan, China, the Moluccas, and other territories. This immense jurisdiction was reduced by the erection of the short-lived diocese of Funai, Japan, in 1588, and the two Chinese dioceses of Beijing (Peking) and Nanjing (Nanking) in 1690.
From the beginning Macau was under the Portuguese padroado. Government intervention in religious affairs frequently caused friction between the Holy See and Portugal and between the bishops and municipal officials in Macau. The papal legate Charles-Thomas Maillard de Tournon died in Macau in 1710 a virtual prisoner after his important but unsuccessful mission to the emperor of China to settle the chinese rites controversy. In 1594, Valignano founded St. Paul's College. The Jesuits ran it for nearly two centuries as a school for missionaries and as a unique center of cultural and scientific exchange on Chinese and Japanese culture on the one hand and Europe on the other. It closed in 1762 when the Jesuit order was disbanded and their members expelled from Macau. In 1835, the magnificent church that the Jesuits had built next to the college burned to the ground. St. Paul Church, also known in Chinese as Da Sanba, was never restored. Its famous facade still stands and has become a symbol
for Macau. In the course of the 19th century the size of the diocese of Macau continued to shrink as new vicariates apostolic were established in mainland China.
The Arrival of Protestant Missionaries. Robert Morrison was the first Protestant missionary to arrive in Macau in 1807. His translation of the Bible into Chinese in 1819 was of paramount significance in promoting Christianity in China. From the beginning, Catholic authorities opposed the influx of Protestant newcomers and even today the Protestant community of Macau remains small. The Southern Baptists arrived in 1910. At the beginning of 2001 they ran seven small parishes and a medical clinic called Hope Clinic.
The Catholic Church in Present-Day Macau. In 1990, after more than four hundred years of appointing bishops from Portugal and its territories, the Holy See chose a Chinese priest from Macau, Domingos Lam Katseung (Lin Jianjun), for the position. Bishop Lam, in April 2001, ordained Jose Lai Hangseng, the pastor of the cathedral, as his bishop coadjutor. As of the year 2000, the number of Catholics since 1990 has remained steady, oscillating between 21,000 and 19,000 members (approximately 5 percent of the total population).
Since the handover, the new administration has respected the freedom of religious belief for all the residents of Macau. It has permitted the Catholic Church to continue operating seven parishes and 34 schools unhindered. The Church's influence on education is very significant with half of the school children in Macau studying in the 34 Catholic schools. During Portuguese rule, the Portuguese government financed the Catholic clergy and its schools. Today, the priests' salaries come from the coffers of the diocese, and schools are largely relying on school fees and limited government subsidies. Through its social services, the Church also operates four homes, a hostel and a day center for the aged as well as a small hospice. Caritas Macau maintains a home for the handicapped, a halfway house for ex-prisoners and a center for the homeless.
O Clarim, the diocesan weekly newspaper, founded in 1949, is the oldest newspaper still in circulation in Macau. In 1977, recognizing the power of the media in its missionary work, the diocese of Macau established the Centro Diocesano dos Meios de Communicação Social. It coordinates work on radio and television and produces audio-visual material for educational purposes. Some of the best films shown in Macau are screened in the three cinemas of its Cineteatro. The center also runs a library and a bookstore.
Bibliography: t. b. da silva and w. radasewsky, Macau (Berlin 1992). c. r. boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415–1825 (London 1969). c. m. b. cheng, Macau: A Cultural Janus (Hong Kong 1999). r. d. cremer, ed. Macau: City of Commerce and Culture (Hong Kong 1991). l.g. gomes, Efeméridas da história de Macau (Lisbon 1954). Pursuing the Dream: Jesuits in Macao (Macau 1990). r. malek, ed., Macau: Herkunft ist Zukunft (Sank Augustin, Germany 2000). Papers of the International Conference on Macao at the Eve of the Handover. Held by the Centre of Asian Studies at The University of Hong Kong, October 29–30, 1999. m. teixeira, Macau e sua diocese no ano dos centenarios de fundaçao e restauraçao, 3 vols. (Macau 1940–1963). Macau. Special 92: The Catholic Church at the Gates of China. (1992). Tripod special issue: "Macau in Transition." vol. XIX, no. 114, November-December 1999.