“Behind every uniform, there is a real person: with a family and a homeland, with a personality and sensibility, with wishes and plans in life,” Pope Francis stressed when he received today in audience new recruits to the Pontifical Swiss Guard.
The men will swear their allegiance to the Pope tomorrow, accompanied by their families and friends.
“Your uniform is an evocative trait of the Swiss Guard and attracts the attention of the people,” Francis said. But he added: “Remember that it is not the uniform, but rather he who wears it, who must be noted for his kindness, his spirit of welcome, for his charitable attitude towards all. Consider this also in your relations between yourselves, according importance, also in your community life.”
The Pope noted how they treat others, even in terms of little gestures, makes a difference. For example, the sharing in joyful and difficult moments is important. A guard should not ignore those around him in difficulty and should recognize those times when someone is in “need of a smile and a gesture of encouragement and friendship.”
“Avoid that negative distance that divides companions and, in the lives of all people in the world, can give rise to disdain, marginalisation and racism,” he said.
“With your special service, you are called upon to offer serene and joyful Christian witness to whoever arrives in the Vatican to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and to meet the Pope,” said Francis, noting that serving in the Swiss Guard means living an experience that involves a meeting of time and space in a very particular way.
“Live your days intensely! Be firm in your faith and generous in your charity towards the people you meet.”
“It is a special day, as it commemorates the Sack of Rome and the heroic act of your predecessors who, in 1527, offered their lives to defend the Church and the Pope. Your dedication confirms that their courage and loyalty have borne fruit.”
Giving some historical background, he said, “the social and ecclesial context has changed greatly since then.” Although society is different, “man’s heart, his capacity to be loyal and courageous – acriter et fideliter, as your motto says, – has remained the same.”
Stating that the celebrated uniform of the Swiss Guard will celebrate one hundred years this year, the Pontiff said: “Its colours and shape are known throughout the world, and stand for dedication, seriousness and security. They are identified with singular service and a glorious past.” (D.C.L.)