VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked 23 new members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard to draw close to the sacraments, read Scripture and meditate on spiritual texts, including during calm shifts on guard.
“Your mission here in the Vatican is a path the Lord has opened for you to live your baptism and bear joyful witness of faith in Christ,” the pope told them May 6. “In the many faces that approach you each day, be they members of the Roman Curia or pilgrims and tourists, may you see just as many invitations to recognize and share God’s love with each person.”
The pope met with the recruits and their families before the traditional swearing-in ceremony in a Vatican courtyard. The ceremony is held May 6 each year to commemorate the 147 Swiss soldiers who died protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome on that date in 1527.
Pope Francis said that the guard, now composed of 125 Swiss men, should be “an environment of human and Christian formation for all.”
At a late afternoon swearing in ceremony, which the pope did not attend, the new guards marched in formation before their families, members of the Roman Curia and Swiss dignitaries in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace.
One by one, they placed a hand on the flag of the Swiss Guard while raising the other with three fingers to symbolize the Trinity. In one of Switzerland’s four official languages — German, French, Italian or Romansh — the recruits swore to serve the pope and his legitimate successors “faithfully, loyally and honorably,” and, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives in his defense.
Viola Amherd, vice president of Switzerland, led the government delegation attending the ceremony. Pope Francis was represented by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, substitute secretary for general affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The guards began the festive day with a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica celebrated by Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
New Swiss Guards must be Swiss citizens, unmarried, Catholic males between 19 and 30 years old. They commit to serve for at least 26 months.
Renovations to the Swiss Guard barracks, set to begin in 2025, will include the construction of private bathrooms to accommodate the possibility of integrating women into the guard, but an executive of the Swiss foundation overseeing the renovation said that decisions rests entirely with the Vatican and the pope.