The Basic Law and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.
Article 34 of the Basic Law states, “Macau residents shall have freedom of religious belief, and freedom to preach and to conduct and participate in religious activities in public.” Article 128 of the Basic Law stipulates “the government, consistent with the principle of religious freedom, shall not interfere in the internal affairs of religious organizations or in the efforts of religious organizations and their believers to maintain and develop relations with their counterparts outside Macau or restrict religious activities which do not contravene the laws of the Special Administrative Region.”
Under the Basic Law, the government of the Macau SAR (not the Government of the People’s Republic of China--PRC) controls religious practices in the region. Religious organizations coordinate their relations with co-religionists in the PRC through the Central Government Liaison Office (CGLO). Religious communities report that the CGLO supported these activities and exchanges. The CGLO also maintains dialogue with religious organizations in the SAR.
The 1998 Freedom of Religion and Worship Law (Freedom of Religion Law), which remained in effect after the 1999 transfer of sovereignty to the PRC, provides for freedom of religion, including privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education.
The Freedom of Religion Law allows religious organizations to register directly with the Identification Bureau, which is required under the law to receive and process registrations. Applicants need to supply their name, identification card number, contact information, organization name, and a copy of the group’s charter to register. Religious entities can apply to media organizations and companies to use mass media (television, radio, etc.) to preach, and such applications generally are approved. Registration is not required to conduct religious activities, and it does not automatically confer tax-exempt status or other advantages.
The Freedom of Religion Law also stipulates that religious groups may develop and maintain relations with religious groups abroad. The Catholic Church, which is in communion with the Vatican, recognizes Pope Benedict XVI as the head of the church. In 2005 the Holy See appointed the current bishop for the diocese.
The government provides financial support for the establishment of schools, childcare centers, clinics, homes for the elderly, rehabilitation centers, and vocational training centers run by religious organizations. Beginning in September 2007 the Macau Inter-University Institute (now renamed the University of Saint Joseph), which is affiliated with the Catholic University in Portugal, has offered a Christian studies course that includes Catholic seminary students from the Mainland.
The government observes Christmas, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Buddha’s Birthday as public holidays.