Absorb Church's Catholic identity, Pope tells new Swiss Guards

The Pontifical Swiss Guards anual commemoration of fallen guards on May 6 2013 Credit Stephen Driscoll CNA CNA 5 6 13 The Pontifical Swiss Guard's annual commemoration of fallen guards on May 6, 2013. | Stephen Driscoll/CNA.

On the day that it will swear in 35 new members and commemorate the fallen, the Swiss Guard was told by Pope Francis that it has "a privileged opportunity" to deepen its knowledge of Christ by breathing in the catholicity of the Church.

Every May 6, the corps remembers the 147 Swiss soldiers who died defending Pope Clement VII during the 1527 Sack of Rome. In addition, the Swiss Guard also swears in new members for two years of service at the Vatican.

In anticipation of the new recruits joining the corps, the Pope received them and their families in an audience today at 12:45 p.m.

"Today," he began, "you are not called to this heroic gesture but to another form of sacrifice, which is also challenging: to put your youthful energies at the service of the Church and the Pope. To do this you must be strong, motivated by love, and sustained by your faith in Christ."

Pope Francis advised them to remember the faith that led them to choose to join the Swiss Guard.

"(T)he faith that God has given you on the day of your baptism is the most precious treasure you have! And your mission of service to the Pope and the Church also finds its source there," he said.

The Holy Father also pointed out that their service has a missionary aspect, since they "are called upon to bear witness to your faith with joy and a courteous manner.

"How important this is for so many people who pass through Vatican City! But it is also important for those who work here for the Holy See and for me as well!" he added.

Pope Francis also noted that their presence "is a sign of the strength and the beauty of the Gospel that, in every time, calls the young to follow it."

He finished by saying, "(t)oday when some of you swear to faithfully carry out your service in the Guard and others renew this oath in their hearts, think that your service is a testimony to Christ who calls you to be authentic men and true Christians, protagonists of your own existence."

The swearing-in ceremony will be held at 5:00 p.m. this evening in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. It was originally scheduled for the St. Damaso Courtyard, but rain led to a change of location.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu will be present at the ceremony as the Pope's representative, as well as the president of the Swiss Confederation, Ueli Maurer.

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