Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres
The Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres is in the southern part of
the island of Luzon in the Bicol Peninsula referred to as Region V. The archdiocese covers the Second, Third and Fouth Congressional Districts of Camarines Sur. Lying at the
heart of the Bicol Peninsula, the province of Camarines Sur is bounded by Camarines Norte and San Miguel Bay in the north, by Albay and Ragay Gulf in the south, Lagonoy Gulf in
the east, and by Quezon and Ragay Gulf in the west.
The history of Camarines Sur was closely bound with that of its sister province Camarines Norte from the sixteen century
up to 1919, when the Philippine Legislature legislated their separation. The division of what was known as Ambos Camarines (both Camarinese) gave Camarines Sur a larger portion of the land, being about
two-and-a-half times bigger than Camarines Norte. Naga City became the capital. And when this became a chartered city in 1948, Pili was declared the new capital.
Population of the archdiocese is roughly 999,000 of whom 89 per cent are Catholics. Spanish influence is strong. The cathedral in Naga City has become the center of
Catholic activities in the Bicol Region. The faithful of Caceres have a strong abiding faith in God. And an added dimension to this faith is the devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Peņafrancia
, fondly called "Ina" meaning mother, which is contagious and compelling. She is the Patroness of Bicolandia, and her feastday is celebrated in
the month of September. An annual fluvial parade in her honor illustrates the strong Spanish influence. This devotion to Our Lady of Peņafrancia was introduced through
the initiative of Vicar General Miguel Robles de Covarrubias during the incumbency of Andres Gonzales, OP.
Fray Alonso Gimenez, OSA, was the first missionary who introduced Christianity in
the Bicol Region in 1569, reacing the islands of Masbate, Ticao, Burias, and the town of Camalig in Albay where storehouses of grain abounced, hence the term Tierra de Camarines
. The expedition was headed by Captain Enrique de Guzman. Following the route of the De Guzman expedition, Captail Andres Ibarra pushed farther inland to the settlements along Lake Bato and Bua (now the towns of Bato
and Nabua) in 1570. In 1573, Fray Diego de Espinar, OSA, and Captain Juan Salcedo, came down from the north and went through Paracale and San Miguel Bay
to Libon, Albay. Captain Pedro de Chaves founded a township along the Bicol River for Spanish nationals and named it Ciudad de Caceres, after Caceres in Spain, the
birthplace of Governor-General Francisco de Sande.
Fray Pablo de Jesus and Fray Bartolome Ruiz, the first Franciscan missionaries, established the first four parishes in the regions of Naga, Quipayo, Nabua and Bula.
And in 1594 Tierra de Camarines was officially and permanently assigned to the Franciscan missionaries until the end of the Spanish regime by virtue of a decree issued by Philip II.
On August 14, 1595, Pope Clement VII created the Diocese of Caceres by virtue of a papal bull. The diocese extended over the provinces of Camarines and Albay, the
islands of Masbate, Ticao, Burias, Catanduances and Samar, and the province of Tayabas, Luis Maldonado, OFM, was the first appointed bishop.
The construction of the conciliar seminary was started in 1783, but it was in 1797 that the canonical erection of the Seminario Conciliar de Caceres took place under
Domingo Collates, OP. In 1816 the ecclesiastical buildings (cathedral, bishop's house and seminary) were transferred to their present site, and in 1843 the inauguration and blessing of the new Cathedral was celebrated.
With the creation of the Diocese of Lipa in 1910, Caceres became a purely Bicol diocese composed of the six provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur,
Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon. And on June 29, 1951, Caceres was elevated to an archdiocese by Pope Pius XII through a papal bull. Its suffragan dioceses
today are Legazpi and Sorsogon. The first archbishop was Most Reverend Pedro Santos, D.D.
In 1978 the Archdiocese of Caceres celebrated the quadricentennial of the
Christianization of the Bicol Region. And in 1995, it celebrates its 400th year as a diocese.
A review of the administrative organization of the Cuhrch of Caceres in favor of its 89
per cent Catholic faithful yields 50 parishes, 48 of them under diocesan clergy, and 2 under religious clergy. The parishes are organized into nine vicariates.
The clergy is composed of one archbishop, one retired archbishop, and 143 priests. For the last ten years, there has been an average of six ordinations to the
priesthood every year. There are 10 religious priests and 149 religious sisters working in the diocese. Most lay leaders belong to the parish councils of parishes
and barangays, the various ministries and apostolates, religious associations and movements in the service of the Church.
With the reading of the Decree of Convocation by Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi,
OP, D.D. on March 28, 1991, the first formal ecclesial gathering for the specific purpose of realizing the vision of the Plenary Council of the Philippines II was
launched. After study sessions, pre-conciliar orientations and other preparations, the Archdiocese Pastoral Council of Caceres was finally held August 25-31, 1991 at
the Holy Rosary Major Seminary in Naga City. 179 conciliar resolutions were formally promulgated into the Decrees of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council of Caceres on October 29, 1991.
The conciliar decrees were forwarded to the various diocesan commissions, ministries and offices for further study. Consultations were made with the vicars,
religious and laity. Consequently, on January 10, 1993, the archbishop issued the Decree of Implementation of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan of Caceres. With this
plan the archdiocese has defined its mission and vision: the local Church of Caceres, called to be a Church of the Poor on its journey toward a Community of the Lord's Disciples through integral evangelization.
Most Rev. Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP, D.D., PhD, STD
Ordained priest: December 17, 1960
Ordained bishop: August 8, 1977
Appointed Archbishop of Caceres: October 20, 1983