The Vatican has announced that thirty-one new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard will take their official oath to guard and defend the Pope in a historic ceremony on May 6th.
The event will be held in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.
Members of the Roman Curia, diplomatic representatives and civil and religious authorities from Switzerland, as well as family, friends and the close-knit community of Swiss Guard Alumnae will all be present.
Twenty-five of the recruits will take their oath in German, four in French, one in Italian and one in Romansch, likewise, all will be in full dress uniform for the day.
The history of the Pontifical Swiss Guard is a rich one. Founded by Pope Julius II in 1506, the guard is directly dependant on the Holy See, and its main duties were to guard the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces.
The date of May 6 is the traditional date for the swearing-in ceremony because on that date in 1527, 147 members of the 189-member Swiss Guards lost their lives during the Sack of Rome when they fell in battle, protecting Pope Clement VII and the Church from the onslaught of the troops of Emperor Charles V.
This year’s ceremony will begin at 7:30 a.m. with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Swiss Guards and their family members and friends. At 9 a.m., Archbishop Leonardo Sandri will confer military decorations on members of the corps, and fallen members of the guard will be honored as the commander of the guards places a laurel wreath at a special monument to them.
The formal oath will then be read by the Swiss Guard chaplain, which says, "I swear to faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them.”
“I assume”, it continues, “this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the See is vacant. Furthermore I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me."
The recruits will each then, be called by name and, in his native tongue, confirm the oath.
The patron saints of the Pontifical Swiss Guards are St. Martin, St. Sebastian and St. Niklaus von Flue, known as “defender of the peace and father of the Country."
Requirements to become a member of the Guard include being a Swiss Catholic male under the age of 30.
Likewise, they must be unmarried, over 174 cm (5' 8") in height and have obtained a professional diploma or high school degree. The candidate must also have attended Swiss military school.
The guards, who live inside Vatican City, are required to fulfill a minimum term of service of two years.