The bravery of the Pope’s police force was recognized Sept. 29 at a special ceremony in Rome. The event also saw the handing over of a flag used by papal soldiers who died defending the Vatican.
The Inspector General of the Gendarmerie, Commander Domenico Giani, explained to CNA that “we are celebrating the feast of the Gendarme Corps, an annual event to remember our Holy Patrons - Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Michael in particular,” he said.
“And every year on this day we offer our fidelity yet again to the Holy Father, fidelity to the Church, the service we offer every day to the Holy Father and the Vatican City State.”
The Corps of the Gendarmerie protect the Vatican in cooperation with the Swiss Guard. The commemorative ceremony celebrating their work was held in the square that sits in front of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
A hugely colorful affair, it included about 70 Gendarmes in formation, led by their marching band.
The assembled crowds were also treated to a display of the Gendarmerie’s equipment including Ducati motorcycles, fire trucks, ambulances and an anti-terrorism unit complete with masked men in camouflaged all-terrain trucks.
The dignitaries present included the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, along with a number of civil and military authorities from the Italian government.
“You, dear Gendarmes, just as the Swiss Guards in their own environment, have as the first objective of your service precisely the protection of the august person of the Vicar of Christ, an unequaled task in dignity and valor, not only for the Holy Catholic Church but for all of humanity,” the gendarmes were told by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the outgoing President of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
Also among the guests was 84-year-old Prince Sforza Ruspoli. An Italian aristocrat, he gave the Gendarmerie a papal flag which has been in the possession of the Sforza Ruspoli family since the late 19th century. The banner had been carried by the papal troops who died trying to prevent the Italian army from capturing Rome in 1870. In fact, its yellow and white cloth is still peppered with bullet holes.
“I brought the flag today because for the last 20 years they've been asking me for the flag,” Prince Sforza Puspoli told CNA.
“But, I was waiting for the beatification of Pope Pius IX, the great Pope who was the victim of September 20, 1870. And, they talked for a long time--for political reasons I imagine--to arrive at the beatification of Pope Pius IX and after his beatification I would have been very glad to hand over the flag.”
Yesterday, at a private audience, the prince symbolically handed the flag over to Pope Benedict XVI. He said that wanted to give over the flag “because I am no longer young and I prefer that that flag is in the hands of the Pope.” It will now be put on display in the Historical Museum of the Lateran Palace.