Today, 23 new Swiss Guards were sworn in.
This week, ZENIT talked to one of the 23 recruits, a Swiss from the Italian canton, who commented on the emotion of being able to swear to serve the Pope and the Church.
“My name is Mauro Giovanola. I live in Briganzona near Lugano, in the canton of Ticino. I have been here in the Swiss Guard for three months and am ready to take the oath,” he said, adding that joining the Guard was a personal decision which had much support from his family, his parish and his friends. He pointed out that before coming to the Vatican he attended the Recruits’ School in the Swiss city of Fribourg and then decided to come to Rome.
Asked about his faith, Giovanola said he is a Catholic and conscious that the oath “is a moral commitment, an obligation we assume and we must respect what we have sworn, otherwise it would make no sense.”
The young guard explained that their first mission is “to protect the Holy Father,” and also to “control the entrances and exits of Vatican City,” to be a “service of order” in the Square during the Audiences, to engage in the service of honour, that is, “to be a watchman during the Audiences.”
The recruit of the world’s smallest and most famous army admitted that “as in all schools of recruits, the training has a hard part” but there is also a simple part.
About his period of service, he said: “I will stay for at least two years, but it might be three or more. What I’ve liked most in this period is being a guard, but also being in the Vatican because I am a Catholic.”
In addition, Giovanola has enjoyed the environment in the barracks. “I have met many friends and the service in the Square, with the pilgrims who come to attend the Holy Father’s ceremonies, is very moving.”
It is a mission that has its dangerous side, he explained: “as guards we look like guards,” although what is most particular is to “work near the Holy Father every day, and although we are not always in direct contact, we attend many ceremonies where he is.”
“Although we are in a barrack, we have, so to speak, our parish, with Masses on feast days and Sundays,” he said. He pointed out that he was aware that every year, at the end of their service, a Swiss Guard decides to become a priest and, smiling, he added ”but that’s not known until the call comes …”
During some of their times on guard, for instance, they can engage in other activities and even pray the Rosary but that, he said, depends on each one.