VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II thanked the Swiss Guards for their service of guarding the person of the Pope and his residence, on the day that 32 new recruits were sworn in.
In particular, the Holy Father pointed out the “courtesy” with which these young men welcome “the numerous pilgrims who every day ask for their help.”
“I thank you profoundly and invite you to reflect on the example of your predecessors, some of whom even gave their lives to fulfill the mission entrusted to them to defend the Successor of Peter,” he added today.
In fact, on May 6, the guards commemorate the death of 147 Swiss soldiers who died defending Pope Clement VII in 1527.
On Tuesday afternoon, in St. Damaso’s courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, 32 new guards took the oath in the presence of Vatican authorities and of Peter Schonenberger, president of the Swiss canton of St. Gallen.
Among the new guards is Dhani Bachmann, a young man from India, adopted as a child by a Swiss couple.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard, founded by Pope Julius II in 1506, is currently made up of 110 volunteers, recruited from all the Swiss cantons. Their duties also include guarding the entrances to Vatican City, security services, and forming an honor guard during the Holy Father’s religious and diplomatic activities. A number of guards always accompany the Pope on his journeys.
The corps includes four officers, 26 noncommissioned officers, 79 halberdiers and one chaplain. Terms are for two years, with the possibility of renewing for another two years, up to a maximum of 20 years.
More information is at http://www.guardiasvizzera.org.