CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 29, 2005 ( Benedict XVI has named Bishop Mounged El-Hachem, of the Maronite Eparchy of Baalbek-Deir El-Ahmar, as apostolic nuncio to a number of Persian Gulf states.

The Lebanese-born prelate, 70, was named nuncio in Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and Qatar, as well as apostolic delegate in the Arabian Peninsula, which includes Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. He will have the title of archbishop.

The prelate is replacing Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea, 75, who resigned for reasons of age, according to the Vatican press office.

Mounged El-Hachem was born in El-Akoura in September 1934. He was ordained a priest in March 1959. He worked in the Pontifical Commission of Social Communications from 1970 to 1978, the year in which he was transferred to the General Affairs Section of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

In October 1993 he was appointed head of the Office of the General Affairs Section of the Secretariat of State.

In June 1994 he was elected bishop of Baalbek-Deir El-Ahmar of the Maronites and received Episcopal ordination the following Sept. 13.

Archbishop De Andrea, the retiring nuncio, previously told ZENIT that the unprecedented attendance, and media coverage, of those Muslim countries' representatives at Pope John Paul II's funeral was "a positive sign" for their relations with the Catholic Church.