Vatican City, May 5, 2018 / 11:55 am
As 33 new Swiss Guards prepare to take an oath Sunday, the entire army is preparing to expand its ranks by two dozen members to respond to increasing administrative demands while ensuring guards are not overworked.
Commander of the Swiss Guard, Christoph Graf, told journalists May 4 that the Vatican’s army will be going through an internal reorganization and that they have been asked to up the number of guards from 110 to 135 as part of the process.
The expansion is not necessarily a response to greater security challenges – five years in to his pontificate, the guard has adjusted to Francis’ spontaneity and informality, Graf said.
Instead, the restructuring is just a part of maintaining a modern and up-to-date security team, Swiss Guard Sergeant and media liaison Urs Breitenmoser told CNA.
There is an increased need for administrative positions, such as answering phones in the call center, and at the same time, they want to guarantee the men have time to rest, since they work long hours already, he said.
The announcement about upping the number of members in the world’s smallest-but-oldest standing army comes just a few days before the formal swearing-in ceremony May 6, when this year’s recruits will take an oath to protect and defend the pope.
The ceremony follows a full weekend of events, which are attended by representatives of the Swiss army, Swiss government, and Swiss bishops’ conference. Family and friends of the guards, as well as former guards who return for a visit, also participate.
One of these events was a meeting between Pope Francis at the Pontifical Swiss Guard May 4, where the pope encouraged them to meet the Lord in personal prayer and community, in the Word of God, and in “fervent participation in the Eucharist.”