VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Swiss Guards are looking for a few good men.
The famed unit at the Vatican has seven vacancies, even after Sunday´s swearing-in ceremony of 26 new members.
The Guards were created in 1506 by Pope Julius II. Today they have 96 units and seven auxiliary guards. Their statute provides for a total of 110.
The current situation is by no means serious. At one point in the 1970s, there were 40 vacancies in the world´s smallest and oldest army.
To entice new recruits, and in keeping plans already implemented in Western armies, Swiss youth are being offered the possibility to study languages and computer science, and to attend university courses.
At a press conference, Colonel Pius Segmuller explained that the Swiss Guards have begun to use Internet for recruitment, at http://www.gardesuisse.org/.
Switzerland´s strong economy and secularization make it harder to attract new recruits, the colonel acknowledged. “When things are going well in our country, youth find work easily and are not interested in coming to Rome to serve the Pope,” he said.
Moreover, the selection process is increasingly exacting, in the wake of the May 1998 tragedy when a soldier committed suicide after killing his newly appointed commander, Alois Estermann.
The Web page lists the requirements to become part of the Swiss Guard, including Swiss citizenship, Roman Catholic religion and impeccable reputation.
The candidate must have finished his military service in Switzerland and be between 19 and 30 years old. He must also be at least 174 centimeters tall (5-foot-8), a celibate, and have a professional certificate or high-school diploma. He must be willing to dedicate at least two years.