Pope Benedict XVI met with 34 new Swiss Guard recruits on May 6 and offered words of wisdom and encouragement before the swearing-in ceremony.
“The time that you will spend in the 'Eternal City' will be an exceptional moment in your lives,” the Pope told the new guards.
“Live it with a spirit of sincere fraternity, mutually helping one another to live an exemplary Christian life that corresponds to your faith and your unique mission in the Church.”
The Pope also expressed “profound gratitude” for the guards' willingness to be “at the disposition of Peter's Successor and to thus contribute to guaranteeing the necessary order and security within Vatican City.”
On the evening of May 6 in the courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the new recruits will be sworn in as members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard in front of members of the Roman Curia, diplomatic representatives, and civil and religious authorities from Switzerland.
Earlier this year, the Swiss Guard commemorated more than five centuries of being the Pope's sworn protectors.
In 1506, around 150 Swiss soldiers first entered the Vatican by request of then-Pope Julius II. The group has remained present to this day and is now the oldest standing army in the world.
During his remarks, Pope Benedict referred to the “infamous Sack of Rome” in 1527 “during which the Swiss Guards valiantly defended the Pope, even giving their lives for him.”
The “memory of that earthly pillage makes us reflect that there exists the threat of an even more dangerous pillage, one that can be called a spiritual attack,” he noted.
“In today's social context, many youth run the risk of falling into a progressive impoverishment of the soul because they are chasing after the ideals and perspectives of a superficial life that only seeks to fulfill material needs and demands.”
“Act so that your time in Rome,” the pontiff added, “be a propitious time for you to make the most of the innumerable possibilities that this city offers in order to give an ever more solid and profound meaning to your lives.”
“Take advantage of the opportunities offered you to widen your cultural, linguistic, and above all spiritual horizons.”
The Pope concluded by expressing hope that the new recruits be deeply affected by their “meaningful presence at the heart of Christianity, where crowds of faithful are constantly arriving to meet Peter's Successor and to visit the tombs of the Apostles.”
May the work of the Swiss Guard “arouse more and more in each of you, the purpose of intensifying the spiritual dimension of your lives,” he added, “as well as the intention of deepening your Christian faith, joyfully bearing witness to it by the coherent conduct of your lives.”