The history of the Macau Holy House of Mercy is tied up with that of the Territory of Macau itself, which was formerly under Portuguese administration and is now a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. It should be borne in mind that the "Confraternity and Fraternity of the Macau Holy House of Mercy", as it was originally called, was created shortly after Macau was founded, as a Portuguese settlement, such that the two are closely interwoven. In fact, the founder of the "Holy House", Bishop D. Belchior Carneiro, was a key figure in early history of Macau, being linked with the founding of the first local political institution, the Senate, in 1583. Moreover, the Holy House of Mercy was created before the organ of local government itself, clearly attesting to how closely it is bound up with the origins of Macau.

Throughout its long history, the Macau Holy House of Mercy has sometimes been directly or indirectly involved in important changes, and these have not been limited solely to the field of medical and social assistance for the most underprivileged, but have also occurred in other areas, including finance. In fact, its activities, among other things, contributed to the implementation of taxes on previously unregulated activities, functioning as a bank, lent money, and promoted a very popular lottery, among other activities.

The fact that Macau has been for centuries a busy trading post, with exception to the second half of the twentieth century, equipped with very reasonable social-welfare infrastructures, is partly also due to this Fraternity, which, throughout its history, has known how to set up mechanisms and handle political sensibilities so as to successfully finance its works of charity while simultaneously becoming a social and even a political reference in the territory. However, the central concern of the institution has always been to keep up its network of social support for those most in need, following a line of action faithful to the Christian culture of the Portuguese kingdom.

D. Belchior Carneiro created the Holy House in 1569, only one year after his arrival in Macau, and set about managing it with alacrity: "When I arrived in this port known as the Name of God, there were very few Portuguese houses here. Shortly after arriving, I opened a hospital, which admits both Christians and pagans. I also created a Lay Fraternity of the Holy House of Mercy to give succour to all the poor and miserable and needy..." These words appear in a letter from D. Belchior to the Jesuit General, in which he officially announced the founding of the Holy House. They clearly show his leadership of the Fraternity, which was in evidence until 1581, when illness led him to renounce all administrative duties. D. Belchior Carneiro was both heedful of, and active in responding to the city's needs, and at around the same time he founded an asylum, where written records and paintings show that he often attended the lepers in person. With this initiative, D. Belchior led the Brotherhood to leave its first great mark on the History of Macau. The lazars' asylum, as it was called at the time, was the first social welfare service ever to be constituted in Macau.

D. Belchior's work of self-sacrificing benevolence, the Macau Holy House of Mercy, is therefore the oldest social solidarity institution in the Macau Special Administrative Region, guided by the principles of Christian solidarity, according to which one should give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the poor and pilgrims, cure the sick and bury the dead.

However, it must be remembered that the creation of the Macau Holy House of Mercy forms part of a global movement which was born in late 15th century Portugal with the foundation of the Lisbon Brotherhood of the Holy House of Mercy. This was instituted by D. Leonor, who was then Regent of Portugal, on 15 August 1498, and was one of the most noteworthy features in the relief reforms begun by the queen in 1485.

D. Belchior left behind a structure that was fully operational but ruled by highly rudimentary regulations.

Today, the Holy House continues, of course, to be a vitally important institution of Macau's Portuguese community. Most of its members are Roman-Catholic and local-born Portuguese. Since the establishment of the Macau SAR, the Holy House has adopted a series of comprehensive measures to embrace the changes, such as repairing and renovating its social-service facilities, providing child-care services, setting up the Macau Holy House of Mercy Museum, etc.

The Holy House offers a wide range of regular social-service facilities such as The Our Lady of Mercy Home for the Elderly, The Creche of the Macau Holy House of Mercy, and the Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind. As a matter of fact, the Holy House started to provide services for the elderly in Macau more than a century ago. The former Shelter House, also popularly known as the Old Ladies' House, which once operated as a refuge for homeless and helpless women, has been converted into a Macau's newest cultural activities centre.

Needy senior citizens are being offered shelter and care at the Our Lady of Mercy Home for the Elderly, which was renovated and expanded in 2001. The renovated facility can accommodate as many as 120 senior citizens. The new premises now boast one the best care centres for the elderly in Macau, both in terms of its up-to-date facilities and services.

The Holy House established its Creche in 2002, where pre-school education is provided in both Chinese and Portuguese. The new facility relieves the strain on the insufficient number of Portuguese-speaking Day-Care Centres in Macau. The Creche of the Holy House can take in as many as 258 children, aged between six months and three years.

The Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind was set up in the 1960s, the only local social-service centre for the visually impaired back then. The centre, which was renovated in 2003, mainly holds social events for the blind and trains its members to learn useful skills, such as how to knit wool and work with rattan, etc.

Apart from all these regular social services, the Holy House also donates money on a case-by-case basis to assist underprivileged individuals and families. No doubt, the Holy House is always moving along with the times.

The Holy House is, of course, much more than a common charity organization since the venerable institution is also committed to cultivating and promoting the rich cultural heritage and Catholic values of Macau's Portuguese community. The Holy House of Mercy Museum, which was opened in 2001, comprises an invaluable collection of Macau's Catholic relics, which bear testimony to the history of Western culture that was introduced to China through Macau. Most of the exhibits have been graciously lent by the Brothers of the Holy House. The museum has become one of Macau's top cultural-tourism spots, and it attracts many visitors every day.

Today, the Holy House takes on a completely new look with its carefully renovated main building and its adjacent alley.

In addition to that, one of the other new facilities provided by the Holy House, the Members Club that has been operating since January 2001, is located just next to the entrance to the main building. The facility functions as a social club not only for our Brothers and their family members and friends, but also for other people, including members of the Chinese community. The Members Club has a bar and serves lunch.

As an active member of Macau's civil society, the Holy House of Mercy does nowadays serve the citizens of the Special Administrative Region with a renewed spirit and energy, reflected on the highly praised restoration of its historical building right in the middle of the historical centre of the city, and already included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.