By Linda Bordoni
Preparing for the traditional May 6th Swiss Guard swearing-in ceremony in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, 33 new recruits, their families and a delegation of Swiss authorities were welcomed by Pope Francis who expressed his hope that the soldiers’ time in the Vatican will strengthen their faith and increase their sense of belonging to the ecclesial community.
Taking advantage of the occasion to thank the special military corps for the “discipline, the ecclesial sense, the discretion and the austere but serene professionalism” with which they carry out their service every day,” the Pope highlighted their persevering fidelity to the bishop of Rome and recalled that the reason the swearing-in ceremony always takes place on May 6th is to commemorate the 147 Swiss soldiers who died defending Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
“The memory of that heroic gesture is a constant invitation to keep in mind and realize the qualities that are typical of the Corps: live consistently the Catholic faith, persevere in friendship with Jesus and love for the Church, be joyful and diligent in large and in small and humble daily tasks, show courage and patience, generosity and solidarity”.
These are the virtues, Francis said, that you are called to exercise when you serve in the Vatican, but also when you have disposed of your uniform: “A Swiss Guard is always a Swiss Guard, both on and off duty!”
To be admitted to the colourful corps, recruits have to be Swiss, practicing Catholics, unmarried, between 19 and 30 years old and at least 1.74 metres tall!