Paul Hinder has announced he will leave his role as Catholic Bishop to Southern Arabia, after 18 years of championing interfaith harmony in the region.
Bishop Hinder, 80, who served as the highest-ranking Catholic official in a jurisdiction covering the UAE, Oman and Yemen, is to be replaced by Paulo Martinelli, currently Auxillery Bishop of Milan.
The departing church leader urged devotees to provide his successor with the "same love and support that I experienced from all of you for the last 18 years."
His resignation from the post was accepted by Pope Francis on Sunday.
Bishop Hinder has been part of the continuing growth of the Catholic faith in the Emirates, Oman and Yemen in recent years, guiding about two million worshippers.
About half of this number are understood to be in the UAE, many hailing from India and the Philippines.
Bishop Hinder spoke of the significance of the pontiff's milestone visit to Abu Dhabi in February, 2019, describing it as a "a step forward in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Muslim world".
Pope Francis led an open-air Mass attended by tens of thousands of people at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi at the conclusion of his historic tour.
His visit also have rise to the International Day of Human Fraternity through his signing of the declaration known as the Document on Human Fraternity alongside Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Iman of Al Azhar.
Bishop Hinder, 80, has dedicated much of his life to promoting Catholicism.
He was the youngest of four sons raised in a “good, practising Catholic family” on a small dairy farm in Switzerland. He said he felt a “kind of calling” to join the clergy.
“The simplicity of the life, the simple life of the Capuchins had an appeal,” said Bishop Hinder in an interview with The National in 2017.
In that interview he spoke of his work to help secure the release of Indian priest Tom Uzhunnalil in September of that year after being held captive in Yemen for 18 months.
“We didn’t know for many months what had happened to him,” said Bishop Hinder. “Of course, we hoped he was alive, we worked on it.”
Bishop Hinder moved to Abu Dhabi in 2003 and was appointed auxiliary bishop of Arabia. The following year, he took over from Monsignor Bernardo Gremoli, who retired.
He will continue as administrator of the Vicariate until Bishop Martinelli takes on his role.
Bishop Martinelli is a member of the Franciscan Capuchin Order and holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has written several books on spiritual life.