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See new Swiss Guards sworn in at Vatican (Video and Photos)

John Touhey - published on 05/06/24

34 brave young men pledged to protect Pope Francis and to faithfully carry out their duties "so help me God" during a colorful ceremony.

On a brilliantly sunny May afternoon, 34 new halberdiers of the Pontifical Swiss Guard were sworn in at the Vatican, pledging to defend Pope Francis. Each of the young recruits promised to carry out his duties “diligently and faithfully … so help me God, and so help me his Saints.”

In their distinctive yellow, blue, and red uniforms, the 135 soldiers of the Swiss Guard are a popular sight at the entrance to the Vatican and papal events. These soldiers make up the world’s smallest army and the oldest. Their job is to defend the Pope and guard his residence, “sacrificing, if necessary” their lives.

Held every May 6, the swearing in ceremony marks the day that 147 Swiss Guards gave their lives to defend Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome on May 5, 1527. Present in the San Damaso Courtyard were Swiss Cardinals Emil Tscherrig and Kurt Koch, along with many Swiss and Vatican officials and a crowd of around 3,000 attendees.

Encouraging fraternity

Recruits must be single Catholic males. They must also be Swiss citizens and are required to have completed basic training in the Swiss army. The selection process is rigorous. New guards promise to serve for at least 26 months. After serving five years, they are permitted to marry.

Pope Francis met with his newest protectors in a private audience earlier in the day. He encouraged them to “go against the grain!” Unlike many of today’s young who are tied to electronic devises, Pope Francis said the new guards should cultivate relationships with their comrades, giving time “for common activities, for moments of fraternity in which to talk and share.”

Holy SeePope FrancisVatican
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