Pope Francis met new recruits to the Swiss Guard, thanking the young men for carrying on the centuries-old tradition of service to the pontiff and the Vatican.
“The Holy See is counting on you! The Vatican City is proud of your presence! he said during a private audience at the Vatican, hosting 36 men from Switzerland who were to be sworn in as Swiss Guards.
“I take this opportunity to thank the entire body of the Pontifical Swiss Guard for its precise and precious daily collaboration of which I am a privileged witness,” Pope Francis said.
Their work “is both fascinating and full of responsibility at the heart of the universal Church,” he said, but that also means they must live it “as a Christian and communal witness.”
He encouraged them to prioritize their professional training, prayer and spiritual life. The ideal of serving the Church will help them to “weather the inevitable moments of difficulty” when they arise.
The Pope also encouraged them to cultivate healthy friendships with each other in a spirit of “sincere and fraternal dialogue”.
The colorful enthronement ceremony for new recruits takes place on May 6 to mark the date in 1527 when 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII during the sack of Rome.
Only 42 guards survived. Holding the ceremony on the occasion of the anniversary is intended to remind the new guards of the seriousness of their commitment.
Among those present at the ceremony in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall were family members of the new recruits as well as the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis, who met the pope earlier in the day.
New recruits undertake to serve and protect “faithfully, loyally and honourably” the pontiff and, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives for him.
Today, more than 100 Swiss soldiers are tasked with guarding all entrances to Vatican City State as well as guarding the Pope and his residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
They also provide security and ceremonial services during liturgical events and visits by heads of state and other dignitaries to the Vatican.