As part of the schedule this year, the family members of the new guards prayed Vespers the evening of May 5 in the church of Santa Maria della Pieta in the Vatican's Teutonic College. Later, the "deposition of the crown" ceremony took place in commemoration of the guards who died during the Sack of Rome.
Before taking their official oath in the afternoon, the guards had 7:30 a.m. Mass with Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica.
They then met with Pope Francis before getting ready for the swearing-in ceremony, which took place in the San Damasco courtyard of the apostolic palace and was attended by Graf and representatives of the Swiss Army and the Swiss government, as well as the Bishops Conference of Switzerland.
During the event, each new recruit approaches the flag of the Swiss Guard when his name is called out. Firmly grasping the banner with his left hand, the new guard raises his right hand and opens three fingers as a sign of his faith in the Holy Trinity.
As he holds up his fingers, the guard proclaims this oath: "I, (name), swear diligently and faithfully to abide by all that has just been read out to me, so grant me God and so help me his saints."
In English, the full oath reads: "I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Francis 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 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!"
In comments to CNA, one of the new guards, Filippo Inches, spoke of the connection between his service and the faith, saying that "without doubt my faith has increased and has been fortified."
"Because living 24/7 in this environment, in the context of the Vatican, surrounded by all these monsignors, archbishops and the Pope himself; participating at least one or twice a week in one of his events, listening to his preaching – inevitably and involuntarily something sticks," he said.
Inches, who has served as a Swiss Guard for the past 11 months, is from the small Swiss town of Vacallo, which sits on the border with Italy, just 37 miles north of Milan. He took his official oath to protect and defend Pope Francis alongside 39 other guards this year.
By serving in the small army, "you also realize increasingly how important the role of the Church is as an institution," he said, suggesting that while the Church is often criticized from the outside, being on the inside shows a different story.
"On the inside, you are aware of how many efforts are made to seek for dialogue, and peaceful solution to the various controversies and conflicts, whether on a political level, an economic level, cultural with different forums and also at the scientific level," Inches said.
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The guard explained that he had wanted to join ever since he was young. He traveled to Rome often as a child, where he always noticed the Swiss Guard, but it wasn't until he was studying humanities in university that he decided to jump into the "adventure" of becoming one.
He said that for him, defending the Pope means "being a part of history" given the army's ancient roots.
"So belonging to this corps I am very proud," he said, "you see the universality, both of the Church and of history."
Inches said he has had the opportunity to see the Pope and speak with him on several occasions during events or while standing guard outside his room.
"It can happen that he greets you, extending his hand and exchanging some joke," he said, adding that what moves him most is when he sees the Pope coming in and out of his room, because "he gives this look like there is always a certain familiarity between him and the guards."
In his speech to the guards and their families before the official swearing-in ceremony, Pope Francis told the guards that while they might not be called to give their lives like the 127 who died during the Sack of Rome, they are called "to another sacrifice no less arduous: to serve the power of faith."