By Alessandro Gisotti
A delicate moment of great personal test but lived inwardly with serenity, encouraged by the trust and support of the Holy Father, the papal household and many collaborators and people who in various ways in recent years have known him and have appreciated his human and professional qualities. This is what Domenico Giani, the Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps, conveyed in an interview to Vatican media, expressing his feelings with which he is leaving his service, underscoring his gratitude to the Pope who acknowledged the honour, loyalty and fidelity with which he carried out his daily work.
After 20 years of service to the Pope and to the Holy See at the head of the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps you are leaving at a delicate and certainly not an easy moment for you. What are your feelings?
I live this difficult moment with the inner serenity that, as those who know me, has marked my lifestyle even in the face of painful events. I have dedicated 38 years of my life to the service of institutions, first in Italy, and then for 20 years in the Vatican, to the Roman Pontiff. In these years I have spent all my energy to ensure the service that had been entrusted to me. I tried to carry it out with self-denial and professionalism but feeling serenely like a "useless servant" who has done his little part to the end, as the Gospel of two Sundays ago reminded us.
The communique of the Press Office stressed that you have resigned even though you “bear no personal responsibility" in the matter ...
Recent events have caused the Holy Father great sorrow and this has deeply affected me. It has been 15 days since the publication of the document, which had been submitted for internal use exclusively for the Swiss Gendarmes and Guards. As indicated in the press release of October 1, an investigation is underway and the people involved have been served an administrative measure. The release of this document, published by some media, has certainly trampled the dignity of these people. As Commander, I too was ashamed of what has happened and of the suffering caused to these people. For this reason, having always said and testified that I am ready to sacrifice my life to defend the life of the Pope, with the same spirit I have taken the decision to hand over my charge so as not to damage in any way the image and activity of the Holy Father. And this I do, assuming the "objective responsibility" that only a Commander can have.
The Pope stressed that both the resignation and the service in recent years do honour to your person". How important is this for you?
In the course of the talks I had with the Holy Father in these days, I have always felt the paternity that has marked the special relationship that I have had with him, since the beginning of the Pontificate, and I think I can say that it was clear to all. In these meetings, I have always felt the human suffering of the Holy Father in the shared decision. The Pope, on the other hand, was aware of some personal difficulties that I had been experiencing for months now and also of the desire to devote more time to my family, my wife and my children. I am therefore deeply grateful to the Holy Father because his recognition of my loyalty, honour and fidelity with which I have carried out my service, will help me face with serenity the future and the new commitments that I can take on with my qualifications, after this extraordinary experience.
Twenty years at the Gendarmerie in the service of three Popes. For the media, the "guardian angel" of the Pope in the role of protecting the Holy Father personally. What do you take away personally from this unique experience?
I had the honour of serving three Popes. First of all, I remember with great emotion Saint John Paul II who called me to serve in the Vatican and whom I accompanied until the last phase of his life. I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the esteem and affection of Benedict XVI at whose side I have faced very delicate questions, always receiving his appreciation and his trust. The Pontificate of Pope Francis, marked by his style of closeness to the people and spontaneity of his gestures, was another great challenge with significant and particular moments. I remember in particular his pilgrimage to Lampedusa, his apostolic journey to Brazil for the WYD and that to the Central African Republic. If I close my eyes, I can see the endless scenes of the almost 70 international apostolic journeys that I have followed, the countless pastoral visits to Rome and Italy and the many private moments with the three Pontiffs. Alongside this, I would like to recall that, under my command, the Gendarmerie has developed a whole series of charitable activities and service to the least as the Gospel asks of us.
What message do you leave to your men, to the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps, which you led in these difficult years?
On the occasion of the last feast of the Corps, I dwelt on some of the qualities that should distinguish our men: discipline, obedience, fraternity, charity and humanity. To this I would like to add unity in fidelity, despite some situations that have understandably caused me sorrow. As I have also stressed to the Holy Father these days, the Corps is healthy and well trained. Together with my collaborators, I have always tried to form people who could be good gendarmes and, with the precious help of the chaplains, also good Christians. I am sure that whoever takes over this delicate task will find fertile ground, that same that I received from the late Commander Cibin, who I remember with respect. One last thought, which is full of my gratitude and my love, goes to my wife Chiara and my children Luca and Laura. They have lived a life full of satisfaction but also of great sacrifice and renunciation. Divine Providence, to which I always refer, despite moments of uncertainty, even the personal ones, that I am living now, will show us the way that is certainly that of the Lord.