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Pope Benedict thanks Swiss Guard for 500 years of ‘priceless’ service

.- Following a 720 kilometer trek from Switzerland to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI thanked members of the Swiss Guard who had traced the historic route of their predecessors 500 years ago to protect Pope Julius II and the Catholic Church from its enemies.

The pilgrimage, undertaken by past members of the Guard, is part of the Holy See’s ceremonies celebrating fifth centenary of the group’s 1506 founding.

In his address to former and current members of the Swiss Guard, Pope Benedict greeted them in German, French and Italian, recalling the group’s ceremonial entry into Rome.

"To greet you," said the Pope, "is the successor of Julius II, whose name is forever linked to the Pontifical Swiss Guard. ... I congratulate you for this wonderful initiative which reminds us of the valor of those 150 Swiss citizens who, with great generosity, defended even unto death the person of the reigning pontiff, writing with their sacrifice an important page in the history of the Church."

He went on, saying that "Considering these five centuries, we give thanks to God for the good your predecessors have done, and for the priceless contribution the Swiss Guard continues to make to the Holy See in our own time."

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