The first Vicariate in Arabia was established in 1888 as the Apostolic Vicariate of Aden and entrusted to the Capuchin Franciscans of Lyons, France. A year later the name of the Vicariate was changed to the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia and covered the whole Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. For almost a hundred years the Apostolic Vicar of Arabia lived in Aden, Yemen. On 1st January 1974, St. Joseph's Church in Abu Dhabi became the See of the bishop.
Since 1916, the Vicariate was entrusted to the Capuchins of the Tuscan Province in Florence, Italy. They provided the majority of the priests as long as they had vocations. However, after the discovery of oil, the number of Catholics grew so fast that many priests from other Capuchin provinces, especially in Asia and the Middle East, were asked to send missionaries.
On 31st May 2011, with a decree by the Congregation of the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia was divided into two: the Vicariates of Northern Arabia (Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, with residence of the Bishop in Awali, Bahrain) and Southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen with the residence of the Bishop in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates). At the same time, with the Ius Commissionis, the responsibility to find mission personnel for Northern and Southern Vicariates was given to the General Superior of the Capuchin Franciscan Order. About 100 priests (of various religious institutes and dioceses) and 80 sisters, assisted by hundreds of trained volunteer catechists, serve the more than two million Catholics in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Vicariate of Southern Arabia is grateful to the authorities of the UAE, Oman and Yemen for their generosity and good will in allowing the faithful of the Catholic Church to freely practise their faith. As members of the Catholic Church who hold fast to the teachings of Jesus Chirst, we aim to be a peaceful people who contribute to the growth of the nations in which we exist.