.- The Pontifical Swiss Guard swore in 30 new recruits during a ceremony on an overcast Thursday evening at the Vatican. The event also commemorated the 147 guards who died defending the Pope during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
Gathering at 5 p.m. in the San Damaso courtyard under the threat of rain, the Swiss Guard held its annual swearing-in ceremony. Vatican Radio reported on Thursday that the 30 new “halberdiers” who enlisted in the last 12 months made their final vows during the ceremony. As part of the ritual, the new recruits lined up and raised three fingers in the air – a traditional sign of oath to the corps.
On Thursday morning, the guard, their families and friends attended a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State.
“The Pontifical Swiss Guard is characterized by the willingness of its members to place themselves in service of the Supreme Pontiff, to provide for the particular care of His person,” Cardinal Bertone said at Mass earlier in the day. This willingness, added the prelate, is something that “you – dear Swiss Guards – have expressed as Christians, that is, motivated by love for Christ and for the Church.”
“For this we are gathered here in the Eucharistic celebration: to pronounce our thanks to the Lord for your generosity.”
“Yours, dear friends of the Swiss Guard, is a skilled and appreciated service, that demands dedication and seriousness,” Cardinal Bertone said. “Being Swiss Guards means always adhering without reservation to Christ and the Church, with the willingness to spend every day of your life for this noble mission.”
The Swiss Guard is an elite force charged throughout the centuries with the task of safeguarding the Pope. The recruits, per guard requirements, must be between 19 and 30 years old, faithful Roman Catholics and Swiss citizens. Guardsmen commit to serving a minimum of 25 months, after which they can chose to leave or be promoted to sergeant.
Among those present at this year's swearing-in ceremony were Doris Leuthard, president of the Swiss Confederation, and Peter Stutz, chief-of-staff, who represented the Swiss army. Also participating as guests of honor was the council of the Canton of San Gallen.