Swiss Guards welcome 36 new recruits: ‘Soldiers sworn to protect Pope’

Thirty-six young men from Switzerland swear their oaths as Pontifical Swiss Guards, and embrace their mission to protect the Pope and Vatican City State.

By Devin Watkins

The Pontifical Swiss Guards welcomed 36 new recruits to their ranks on Friday afternoon, in a ceremony held in the Paul VI Hall due to inclement weather.

The solemn celebration wrapped up two days of intense preparation for the three dozen Swiss soldiers and officially made them part of the world’s oldest military unit.

As every year, the swearing-in ceremony took place on 6 May, the date on which Swiss Guards commemorate the death of 147 of their brothers-in-arms during the sack of Rome in 1527 as they protected Pope Clement VII.

The 36 men were joined by around 600 of their family members and delegates of the Swiss Confederation and Swiss Bishops.

New recruits march into the Paul VI Hall
New recruits march into the Paul VI Hall

In service of the Pope and peace

The Commander of the Swiss Guards, Colonel Christoph Graf, welcomed the soldiers into the service of the Pope with a speech lauding their dedication and voluntary sacrifice of their time.

“Through this solemn act, each one of them will testify his willingness to put himself at the service of the protection of the Pope and, if the situation should require it, to give even his life for the Holy Father.”

The Guards, he added, are well-grounded in the characteristics of the Swiss people: “integrity, reliability, loyalty, tolerance, mutual appreciation, and dialogue.”

Colonel Graf also encouraged the new Guards in their task of becoming “an instrument at the service of peace.”

He lamented the return of war to the European continent, calling it both a crime against humanity and against God.

Love, concluded the Commander of the Swiss Guards, is the only tool which can help humanity to avoid war and heal its wounds. And the Guards, he said, can assist the cause of peace with their Christian service.

Swiss Guards
Swiss Guards

Guardsman shares own experience

Tiago William Würsch, a Guardsman completing his 2nd year of service, spoke to Vatican News about his time as a Swiss Guard.

Having served throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, he said the highlight for him has been the opportunity to see and meet so many people returning to visit the Vatican recently, including tourists and civil authorities from other nations.

The opportunity to serve the Pope and the Holy See has been one of the best parts of his time as a Swiss Guard. Guardsman Würsch added that these positive parts of the job greatly outweigh the difficulties Guards face in learning a new language, living in close quarters in their Vatican barracks, and having to spend extended periods away from their families.

Though he is nearing the end of his original 2-year tour of duty, Guardsman Würsch has decided to extend his service to the Pope by an extra year.

Watch the full ceremony

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06 May 2022, 19:14