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Bishop Paul Hinder of Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia Engages in Dialogue With Mount St. Mary’s Seminarians

Communications Staff

In a discussion with Mount St. Mary’s Seminary candidates for the priesthood on December 7, Bishop Paul Hinder shared the challenges of serving nearly one million Catholic migrants in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and war-torn Yemen.

bishop-paul-hinder-300.pngBishop Hinder invited the seminarians to pray as he noted that Catholics remaining in Yemen have been without a priest for 18 months and that several sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, “who do wonderful work,” continue to serve there under difficult conditions. “We can only pray; I ask you to pray,” Bishop Hinder said. “Even to send humanitarian aid in to Yemen is almost impossible.”

Originally from Switzerland, Bishop Hinder, of the Franciscan Capuchin Order, has served in Abu Dhabi since 2004. Muslims in UAE are tolerant of Christians and the monarchy cares about the security of Catholics in the country, noted Hinder, who is able to wear his religious vestments in public. Among the millions of Muslims in the region, only a few thousand are radicals who are critical of Christians, said Hinder, who cautioned that “we must be careful not to generalize.”

Conversion of Muslims to Christianity is prohibited in the region so Bishop Hinder and the 64 other priests in the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia are limited to serving nearly one million migrant Catholics, most of whom are in the region for work. If a Muslim asks Bishop Hinder about conversion, first he must ensure that the request is sincere rather than a test of whether he is following the law. If the person truly desires conversion, Bishop Hinder advises emigration to a country with religious freedom.

The largest concentration of Catholics in the southern region are in Dubai, where 300,000 are served through one parish. In a typical weekend, upwards of 70,000 people attend services, which are offered from Friday to Sunday. Most of the Catholics in Yemen have left due to the war, either returning to their home country or called to work elsewhere in the region.

This fall, the bishop was among those who secured the release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a priest who was abducted in Yemen on the same day that four Missionary of Charity sisters were killed in 2016. The priest’s faith helped him endure the psychological stress of not knowing where he was or what was happening around him for 18 months, Bishop Hinder said.

Regarding the cultural and religious tensions in the region, Bishop Hinder offered the following observations: “No one understands what is going on, even those in the region.”

Bishop Hinder visited Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in order to check on the Mount’s seminarian from Dubai – Jacob George – who is in his first year of priestly formation. George, an Indian citizen, has lived with his family in Dubai since he was three months old. He received a Catholic education and eventually attended Purdue University, where he became president of Purdue Catholic Students and graduated with a degree in engineering in 2012. He worked as an engineer in Dubai but then discerned a vocation to the priesthood. Last year Jacob worked in the Office of Communications for the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia. He has been at the Mount since August.

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Communications Staff