Benedict XVI welcomed 32 new recruits to the Swiss Guard, telling them their service to the Pope extends to all who live in or come to visit the Vatican. It is a service to the universal church.

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New Swiss Guards

This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the thirty-two new Swiss Guards who were sworn in as members of the corps in a ceremony held yesterday afternoon. The guards were accompanied in their meeting with the Pope by members of their families.

Addressing the new recruits in French, Italian and German, the Pope reminded them that one of their missions is –

“to watch over the home of the Pope, the Apostolic Palace, … yet not only over the building itself and its celebrated rooms, but particularly over the people you will meet and to whom you will demonstrate your courtesy and concern: … over the Pope himself, over the people who live with him, and over his collaborators and guests in the Palace. And your task also touches the life you share with your comrades in arms, who … have the same duty to serve the Supreme Pontiff ‘faithfully, loyally and in good faith’ and to give, if necessary, their lives for him”.

Turning his attention to the city of Rome, the Pope highlighted its “rich history and culture”, at the same time noting how “faith and prayer have over the centuries been transformed into stones and buildings. This is the environment in which we live and that inspires us to take as our model the countless saints who have also lived here, and who help us to progress in our life of faith”.

Pope Benedict pointed out that “the centre of the Universal Church” is located in Rome. Here, he continued, “we encounter Christians from all over the globe. The Catholic Church is international. Yet in her multiplicity she is nonetheless one Church, expressing the same confession of faith and tangibly united by her bond to Peter and his Successor, the Pope.

“The Church brings together men and women from very different cultures”, he added in conclusion. “They form a community in which people live and believe together and, in the essential things of life, understand once another. This is a very important experience which the Church wishes to pass on to you so that you can make it your own and communicate it to others: the experience that through faith in Jesus Christ and in His love for mankind, even such different worlds can become a single unit, creating bridges of peace and solidarity between peoples”.

Admission requirments

Currently, each recruit must be an unmarried Catholic male, a Swiss citizen, between the ages of 19 and 30, have completed mandatory Swiss military service, have an impeccable reputation and agree to sign up for at least two years.

History

The Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 when he called on the States of the “Confederatis Superioris Allemanniae” to allow him to recruit young men to form a Pontifical Corps of Guard. The Guard came into being on 22 January 1506 with the arrival in Rome of a contingent of 150 men who had marched on foot from Lucerne along the pilgrim route known as the Via Francigena. The main duty of the Swiss Guard – which has as its motto “Acriter et Fideliter” (Courage and Loyalty) – was and still remains that of guarding the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces.

The swearing-in ceremony is celebrated every year on 6 May to commemorate the death of the 147 Swiss Guards who died during the Sack of Rome.

VATICAN CITY, 7 MAY 2009 (VIS)

Pope Benedict XVI greeting the Commander of the Swiss Guard Daniel Rudolf Anrig during a ceremony for the annual nomination of new Swiss Guards on May 7, 2009 at the Clementine hall at the Vatican.