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 groups or in the efforts of religious groups 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, rather than the central government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), safeguards religious freedom in the SAR. Religious groups coordinate their relations with co-religionists in the PRC through the Central Government Liaison Office (CGLO). Religious groups report that the CGLO supports these activities and exchanges. The CGLO also maintains dialogue with religious groups in the SAR.
The 1998 Freedom of Religion and Worship Law (Freedom of Religion Law), which remained in effect after Macau’s 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 groups to register directly with the Identification Bureau, which is required under the law to receive and process registrations. Applicants must supply name, identification card number, contact information, group name, and a copy of the group’s charter to register. Religious groups 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 the Pope as the head of the church. The Vatican appoints the bishop for the diocese.
The Macau 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 groups. The Macau Inter-University Institute (later renamed the University of Saint Joseph), which is affiliated with the Catholic University of Portugal, offers 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.