VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Swiss Guards promote a model of “convinced and convincing” Christian life, said Benedict XVI when greeting the security force.
On the occasion of swearing in 31 new recruits, the Holy Father received the guards, their families and friends in audience.
“You accompany the Successor of Peter ‘step after step'” and guarantee effectively his protection, so that free of concerns for the security of his own person he can fulfill his own service for the salvation of men and the good of nations,” said the Pope.
The Swiss Guards’ swearing in ceremony takes place every year on May 6, the day that commemorates the anniversary of the heroic defense of Pope Clement VII by the Swiss Guards during the sack of Rome by Charles V’s troops in 1527.
Speaking in German, Italian and French, the Holy Father illustrated the ideals of these “body guards” of the Bishop of Rome: “solidity in the Catholic faith, convinced and convincing Christian style of life, unbreakable fidelity to and profound love of the Church and the Vicar of Christ, conscientiousness and perseverance in fulfilling large and small tasks of the daily service, courage and humility, altruism and humanity.”
When seeing the guards, the Holy Father recalled what he said during the liturgical celebration at the beginning of his pontificate: “The Church is alive. The Church is young. It bears with it the future of the world and because of this, shows each one of us the way to the future.”
The swearing in ceremony took place at 5 p.m. in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, in the presence of members of the Roman Curia, diplomatic representatives and Swiss civil and religious authorities.
The recruits took their oath in four languages: 25 in German, 4 in French, 1 in Italian and 1 in Romansch. From the commander to the new recruits — all 110 members of the corps wore their gala uniform.
The oath was read by the Swiss Guard chaplain, who said: “I swear to faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the See is vacant. Furthermore, I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear. May God and our Holy Patrons assist me.”
Then each recruit, pronouncing his own name and speaking in his native tongue, confirmed the oath.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 as a stable corps, directly dependent on the Holy See, whose main duties were to guard the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces.
The day began at 7:30 a.m. with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Swiss Guards, their family members and friends.
Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, conferred military decorations on members of the corps.
The Commander of the Guards placed a laurel wreath at the monument that honors the fallen members of the corps.
To become a guard, one must be a Swiss Catholic male under the age of 30, unmarried, over 5 feet 8 inches in height and with a professional diploma or high school degree. The candidate must have attended Swiss military school.
Guards live inside Vatican City. The minimum term of service is two years.