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The Prelature Nullius of Bangued was erected on June 12, 1955 by Pope Pius XII.  It was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia and was elevated to a diocese by Pope John Paul II on November 15, 1982.  Its titular patron is St. James, the Elder, with St. Joseph as the patron chosen by the Divine Word Missionaries for their Abra mission.

The Diocese of Bangued comprises the entire civil province of Abra, with a total land area of 3,975 square kilometers.  Abra has 27 municipalities and is part of the Cordillera Administrative Region, or civil Region II.  Until the passage of a congressional act that made Abra a province in 1917, Abra was part of the Ilocos Region.  Historically Abra is known as the place where the fiery Gabriel Silang made her final stand.  The authorities caught up with her in Abra in 1763, and executed her in Vigan.

From statistics of 1994, there are 169,749 Catholics in the Diocese of Abra constituting 82 per cent of the population.  Two major ethnic groups co-exist in Abra—the Ilocanos who make up the majority, and the Tingguians who belong to different ethnolinguistic tribal communities.

The evangelization of Abra goes back to 1598 started by Spanish missionaries, particularly the Augustinian friars based in Ilocos Sur.  In 1909 the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) arrived in the area and took responsibility for the mission work.

The Diocese of Bangued now comprises 20 parishes run by 25 diocesan priests and 18 Divine Word Missionaries, assisted by 4 religious brothers and 17 religious sisters.  Among the Catholic institutions and pastoral centers are 2 seminaries, 1 college, 18 high schools, 4 elementary schools, 26 school dormitories, 2 radio stations, 1 diocesan newspaper, and 1 pastoral center.  Chapel-based Christian communities number 203.

The first prelate ordinary/bishop was the Most Reverend Odillo Etspueller, SVD.  Upon his retirement in 1987, his then Auxiliary Bishop, the Most Reverend Cesar Raval, SVD, assumed the administration of the diocese.  After Bishop Raval's resignation in 1992, the Very Reverend James Risse, SVD, served as Diocesan Administrator from 1992 until the incumbent, the Most Reverend Artemio Rillera, SVD, was installed as the third Bishop of Bangued in August 1993.

In its first Diocesan Pastoral Assembly on May 23-27 in 1994, the Diocese of Bangued reformulated the following Vision and Mission: Vision  "In the name of the Lord, the Christians of the Church in Abra, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, desire to become a Community of Disciples of Christ, united with His life, formed by His Word, and strengthened by His sacraments, to share the Good News with everyone, specially the poor, so that the Word of God will permeate people's lives, cultures, relationships, and their attitudes toward the environment.  Thus the region of Christ, which is a Kingdom of justice, peace, unity and love will come among them."

Mission   "We intend, individually and with others to deepen faith in Christ by living the Word of God and receiving the sacraments meaningfully; to form or revitalize basic ecclesial communities which express the new image of the Church as a community that is caring, committed to service and imbued with a preferential option for the poor; to infuse into our cultures the values of the Gospel; to implement the social teachings of the Church so that the people of the diocese, as a society, will grow together in devotion to God, respect for men and love of country; and to appreciate, protect and improve the environment."

 

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