A ceremony of Installation of Bishop Paolo Martinelli as the new Apostolic Vicar for Southern Arabia took place on Saturday at St Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi.
Bishop Martinelli, who was the auxiliary bishop in Milan for eight years, was appointed to his new position by Pope Francis.
He 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.
He succeeds Bishop Paul Hinder, 80, who was in service for 18 years and championed interfaith harmony in the region.
In his inaugural speech, Bishop Martinelli said it was an unexpected appointment and he looked forward to serving the people in this vicariate.
"After eight years of service in the Diocese of Milan, the Lord calls me to be a shepherd in this region so unlike my homeland, but which I find fascinating on so many levels," he said.
"I thank Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap for his whole-hearted welcome. I take this opportunity to express my deep admiration for the great work and wise counsel that he demonstrated during his service. I wish and will try to follow his example as I place myself completely at the disposal of God’s people in this land.
"I very much appreciate the important work carried out in all the parishes in this vicariate, the pastoral activities, and, in particular, the invaluable contributions by the Catholic schools. Parish churches are a decisive meeting point for all the people, for all the faithful, and especially for all the families."
Bishop Martinelli said he respected the rulers and authorities of the UAE for promoting the spirit of respectful coexistence and tolerance.
"St Paul in his writings asks us to pray for our rulers. I pray that the rulers of these countries be given the wisdom from God to lead the nations and peoples under their care on the path of peace and prosperity," he said.
"God has called all human beings to live together as brothers and sisters, even if they belong to different cultures, peoples and religions."
He also talked about the document on human fraternity that was signed by faith leaders in Abu Dhabi in 2019 and his wish to promote interreligious dialogue.
"At the very beginning of my office as the shepherd of this vicariate, I express a great desire to elevate interreligious dialogue and the promotion of universal brotherhood according to the spirit of the document on Human Fraternity, signed by Holy Father, Pope Francis, and Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, on 4th February 2019," he said.
"The fact that this important document was signed here in Abu Dhabi, makes us all responsible for its message of peace, as it invites all religions to work together for the common good and promotion of goodwill because every person is loved by God."
Bishop Hinder, the departing church leader, was 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 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 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.