VATICAN CITY — The opening of a new Apostolic Nunciature in the United Arab Emirates bears witness to brotherhood and goodwill between Muslims and Christians, Bishop Edgar Peña Parra has said.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony in Abu Dhabi on February 4, Bishop Peña, Alternate Secretary for General Affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State, said the new nunciature is also “an additional sign of the care and concern of the Holy Father for all the inhabitants of this land.”
“May this new Embassy of the Holy See serve as a place of encounter and dialogue for our bilateral cooperation for many years to come,” the Archbishop said.
Among those present at the inauguration were Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic for South Arabia; and Msgr. Yoannis Gaid, member of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.
The Holy See and the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic relations in 2007, but the nuncio resided in Kuwait. Currently, the nunciature is headed by the Slovenian Mgr. Kryspin Dubiel, business manager.
The opening of the nunciature coincided with the third anniversary of the day when Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar in Egypt, signed a document on the promotion of dialogue and “fraternity humanity” during the Pope’s 2019 apostolic visit to the United Arab Emirates.
The document, Bishop Peña said, showed that unity between Muslims and Christians is possible thanks to the “shared belief in God the creator of all things” from which “is born the call of believers to live in brotherhood with all peoples, without distinction of race, religion or creed and to safeguard creation, our common home.
“Unlike any distortion or manipulation of religion, the answer to this call can be nothing but to choose the path of dialogue, which leads to better mutual understanding and cooperation,” he said.
Bishop Peña said he hoped the joint statement would “serve as a framework” for closer ties between the Holy See and the UAE and help “build a more just and peaceful world.”
“These efforts are very much needed today as we continue to see the negative consequences of replacing transcendent truths about the human person and creation with purely superficial and materialistic values,” the Archbishop said.
Earlier in the week, Bishop Peña marked the opening of the nunciature, as well as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, by celebrating Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dubai.
In his February 2 homily, the Archbishop conveyed Pope Francis’ greetings and his spiritual closeness to the local Catholic community and reflected on “the important role played by consecrated life in the mission of the Church”, in particular in the United Arab Emirates.
“This land has been blessed with the service of many men and women religious over the years, including Bishop Hinder, who is a member of the Franciscan order,” he said.
Bishop Peña encouraged Catholics in the country to continue to be witnesses to God’s saving message that brings “freedom to those who are in spiritual captivity or blind” and “offers truth and authentic unity.”
“I dare say that the Catholic community in Abu Dhabi and the Arabian Peninsula as a whole is also an example of hopeful patience and Christian living,” he said.