By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting new recruits to the Swiss Guard, Pope Francis thanked the young men for their diligent and important work serving the successor of St. Peter every single day.
“The Holy See counts on you! Vatican City is proud of your presence!” he said in a private audience at the Vatican May 6, welcoming 36 men from Switzerland who were to be sworn in as Swiss Guards later that day.
“I take this opportunity to thank the entire corps of the Pontifical Swiss Guard for their precise and precious daily collaboration to which I am a firsthand witness,” he said.
Their work “is both fascinating and full of responsibility in the heart of the universal church,” he said, but it also means they should live it “as a Christian and communal witness.”
He encouraged them to prioritize their professional formation, prayer and spiritual life. The ideal of serving the church will help them “face the inevitable moments of difficulty” when they arise.
The pope also encouraged them to cultivate healthy friendships with each other in a spirit of “sincere and fraternal dialogue.”
The colorful induction ceremony of new recruits is held May 6 to mark the date in 1527 when 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII in the Sack of Rome. Only 42 guards survived. Holding the ceremony on the anniversary is meant to remind new guards of the seriousness of their commitment.
Those attending the ceremony May 6 in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall included family members of the new recruits and as well as the president of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis, who met with the pope earlier in the day.
New recruits pledge to “faithfully, loyally and honorably” serve and protect the pontiff and, if necessary, sacrifice their lives for him.
Today, the more than 100 Swiss soldiers are responsible for guarding all entrances into Vatican City State as well as keeping watch over the pope and his residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. They also provide security and ceremonial services during liturgical events and visits of heads of state and other dignitaries to the Vatican.
During his audience with the new guards, the pope also led a moment of silent prayer for the unexpected death of a former guard, Silvan Wolf. He was “a good kid, joyful, happy,” the pope said, recalling the 25-year-old, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, served in the corps from October 2018 to December 2021.