Pope Francis on Sunday accepted the resignation of Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia.
Hinder, who is originally from Switzerland, turned 80 years old last month, after leading the Catholic Church on the Arabian peninsula for 17 years.
To succeed Hinder, Pope Francis on May 1 appointed Bishop Paolo Martinelli, an Italian priest and Capuchin friar who has been an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Milan since 2014.
Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan on Sunday expressed his admiration and gratitude for Martinelli, 63, who “carried out with intelligent and generous dedication the ministry of Episcopal Vicar for Consecrated Life and for the Pastoral Care of Schools.”
The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia serves approximately 1 million Catholics, and has its seat in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The total population of the vicariate is almost 44 million. Many of the Catholics in southern Arabia are migrant workers from India, Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines, though some are local Arabs.
Bishop Paul Hinder first moved to western Asia at the end of 2003, when he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Arabia. He became the head of the vicariate two years later in 2005.
After the Vicariate of Arabia was divided in 2011, Hinder was appointed to lead the Southern Arabia vicariate, which includes the UAE, Oman, and Yemen.
Since 2020, the bishop had also served as apostolic administrator of the Vicariate of Northern Arabia, which covers Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
Hinder has been a professed member of the Capuchins since 1966.
Before becoming a bishop, Hinder, who holds a doctorate in theology, and has also done studies in canon law, was a professor and Capuchin formator.
He also served as provincial of the Capuchin order in Switzerland and as general councilor or the worldwide order in Rome.
Speaking to Vatican News on April 30, Hinder said being a Catholic in the Arabian Peninsula “is always a question of being a true and honest Christian and living our faith authentically.”
“There should not be too broad a gap between what we speak with our lips and what we live in our lives, personally and communally. The authenticity of our Christian life is very important,” he said.
The bishop also spoke about the world’s “forgotten wars,” such as the civil war in Yemen, which began in 2014.
“Yemen is, for many parts of the world, really at the periphery, though it is situated in a strategically important location,” Hinder said, adding that for many people in Europe, Yemen only comes up “when the Suez Canal is blocked and the provisions from Asia and Africa do not pass any more as before. Then they are scared.”
“But ... this population of more than 30 million suffering in this country, which has an old culture, and which is, by the way, a beautiful country... could produce a lot of refugees [to] the other parts of the world,” he said. “That really is often forgotten. Because other conflicts are somehow close to the hearts of the people and also to the media.”
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Among those calling for a ceasefire in the disastrous Yemen conflict is Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar for Southern Arabia. Though the path out of war is difficult and requires warring parties to overcome deep mistrust, the bishop said both Christians and Muslims are praying for peace and justice.
The inauguration and blessing of a new parish in the capital of the United Arab Emirates last week was met with jubilation, as the church will be a boon to the thousands of migrant Catholics working and living on the outskirts of the city.