Established in 1576, Macau is the first diocese in the Far East and has been the gateway of missionaries entering mainland China in the 19th century. The first bishop was Jesuit Melchior Carneiro. Over centuries of development, more than 100 dioceses have become independent from Macau diocese.
Since the enclave came under the rule of Portugal in 1557, Portuguese and Chinese Catholics have rarely mixed in the 452-year-old Macau diocese, reflecting their segregation in society due to differences in language and culture.
Macau-born Portuguese, many of whom can speak the Cantonese dialect fluently, and Portugal-born Portuguese constitute some 3,690 or 18 percent of the 20,138 Catholics here, according to 1997 diocesan statistics. The number has dropped from 6,659 in 1994 to 3,690 in 1997, or about 45 percent, as many people, especially the Portuguese, have emigrated or returned to Portugal before Macau's handover to China on Dec. 20, 1999.
On the other hand, local Chinese accounts for over three-quarters of the Catholic population and English-speaking and Filipino minorities make up the rest on this special administrative region of 21 square kilometers.
Chinese and Portuguese are the official language of Macau. Mandarin Chinese and the Cantonese dialect are both spoken language in use as there are more mainlanders residing or traveling to Macau today.
Gaming industry and tourism are the major revenue of the special administrative region government. Many local people also rely on the two industries for a living. Since the government has relaxed the gaming franchise, construction industry has also taken a prominent place as more casino and hotels are being built.