March 12, 2020


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


Peace be with you!


We are all in one way or in another concerned by the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak spreading worldwide. Many of us live in fear for ourselves or for our beloved ones. Others are suffering because of the restrictions we have to undergo. Even our religious practices of going to Mass or other communal prayers are put into question. Services are drastically reduced or even suspended. The same is true for the catechism and many other community activities in our parishes.


The World Health Organisation has classified the Coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic and asked governments all over the world to take the necessary precautions to ensure that their citizens remain safe and protected. Countries all over the world are preparing to battle the outbreak which will touch not only the public health sector, but also take a heavy toll on societies and economies, and consequently impact our everyday lives. I wish to repeat my thanks to the UAE government authorities for all their concern for us, and the quick measures that they have taken for the safety of all. We are blessed to be living in this country where excellent medical facilities are available for the sick and where the constant vigilance of the civil authorities in all sectors has limited the spread of the disease. We continue to pray that they may be strengthened with God’s wisdom in their decisions for the safety of us all.


Despite the seriousness of the situation, I wish to remind everybody what I wrote in my last Pastoral Letter (August 2019) based on the question of Jesus to his disciples: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40) We are currently living in such a moment when our faith is challenged. Yes, we are keeping the rules of prudence and taking all precautions to limit the spread of the virus. It is our responsibility. However, in all the measures of prudence and precaution, we should not forget the dimension of faith. This moment of crisis – when the fragility of human life is clear – urges us to be spiritually prepared. It is an opportunity to re-examine our lives, to turn again and renew our faith and trust in the “Living One… who lives forever and ever, and holds the keys of death” (cf. Rev. 1:18). Whatever happens, we are and remain in the hands of God. He is not a jailer making us feel every day our confinement in the misery of this world but a heavenly Father who still “ makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjus t” (Mt 5:45). In his Son Jesus Christ, he has shown us that suffering and death are not the end, but part of a journey that leads to life. The risen Lord is the warrant for this. He is with us “ always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20) and also now during this time of trial.


Many of you may miss the regular Holy Eucharist, not because of negligence but for reasons of sickness, distance from the church or because the services are temporarily suspended. Be sure we shall resume the usual celebrations as soon as possible. However, we can also see such a time of reduction as a kind of fast. It increases the appetite for what we sometimes take too much for granted. Think about our Missionaries of Charity in Sana’a and the few faithful there. Just a few days ago, after a gap of almost four years, they were able to enjoy the presence of a priest who celebrated the Holy Eucharist with them. You cannot imagine their overwhelming joy on the occasion, which for them was an Easter experience after years of fasting. I invite you to take this time of restriction s as a time of spiritual renewal and of deepening your thirst for Jesus.


The Mass will always be offered daily by myself, the Bishop, and the priests, even if there should come a time when no one else can be present in our churches because of the precautions of the civil authorities. Do not forget that at every Mass, the celebrant prays for and in the name of the whole Church - including in your name , and in the name of the faithful who cannot be present. Allow me to quote my Pastoral Letter from 2011 where I wrote in n. 12:


“For those who are not able to join the Holy Mass I would like to make a suggestion that is also associated with my childhood memories: Our home was far away from the church. It was impossible to go to the church every day, even on Sundays one of the family had to remain to look after the cattle. However, we prayed every morning in our family a prayer that helped us to be spiritually united to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The prayer may be also helpful for those among you who for a valid reason cannot always go to Mass:


Dear Guardian Angel, go for me to the church, there kneel down at Mass for me. At the Offertory, take me to God, and offer Him my service: What I am, what I have, offer as my gift. At the Consecration, with your seraphic strength, adore my Saviour truly present, praying for those who have loved me, for those who have offended me, and for those now deceased, that the blood of Jesus may purify them all. During Holy Communion, bring to me the Body and Blood of Jesus uniting Him with me in spirit, so that my heart may become His dwelling place. Plead with Him, that through His sacrifice all people throughout the world may be saved. When the Mass ends, bring home to me and to every home, the Lord's blessing. Amen.


We are still surrounded by the angels and by the saints who are glorifying God and protecting and assisting mankind. Why should we not make them our particular friends and allies in situations where we are touching limits that we cannot overcome?”


Dear brothers and sisters, we shall also try to make the celebrations of this liturgical time of Lent, Holy Week and Easter available through the electronic media. Where the services in the churches are suspended or limited, or where people are not able to reach the communal prayers, the transmission of the Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations will be made available. Already now you can follow the daily Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Santa Marta on the Vatican News website ( ). Similar transmissions will be available soon on our Vicariate’s channel(s).


In our responsibility to be good neighbours to those around us and out of concern for the safety of others, I would specifically ask that you stay at home and do not come to church if you:

Have been in touch with anyone who has been tested positive for COVID-19 even if you do not exhibit symptoms (in this case self-quarantine for 14 days)

Have travelled recently to any of the countries which have had a major COVID-19 outbreak (in this case self-quarantine for 14 days)

Are ill, exhibit symptoms of respiratory illness (coughs, colds, fevers, breathlessness), or have been in touch with those who have these symptoms

Are elderly and have an underlying medical condition (which makes you more susceptible to the sickness)

The guidelines will be updated depending on how the situation evolves. For more information, please, visit


Let us listen to the words of St. Paul: “ Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom: 12:12). The most important thing during this time of disease is that we do not give up prayer and that we truly put our confidence in God, “the Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible”. When we are rooted in him, the storms may shake us but not destroy us, for God is a lover of life and not of death. Our hope in him gives us courage, peace and joy amidst fear.


Many dioceses around the world are observing days of prayer and fasting for the end of the Coronavirus outbreak. I once again ask you to devote your prayer, fasting and acts of charity for those affected by the pandemic. In our Vicariate, we will dedicate the remaining Wednesdays of Lent for this intention. Let us pray for wisdom for those who are fighting this disease, healing for all those affected and protection and safety for all. Let us also be generous in helping those whose lives have been affected by the social and economic impact of the outbreak. Finally, let us ask that we may be able to resume our regular celebrations and activities soon. May the Lord grant that we may soon gather as one Body before his altars to rejoice in his grace and salvation.


“ Abide with your servants, O Lord, who implore the help of your grace, that they may receive from you the support and guidance of your protection.” (Prayer over the People, Thursday in the Second Week of Lent).


Commending you all to the maternal intercession of our Lady of Arabia, and assuring you of my spiritual closeness in prayer,


Abu Dhabi, 12th March 2020



+ Paul Hinder, OFM Cap.

Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia




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