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New Swiss Guards sworn in today

Thirty-two new recruits will be sworn in as members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard today, in the presence of members of the Roman Curia, diplomatic representatives and civil and religious authorities from Switzerland. The ceremony will take place In the San Damaso Courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace at 5pm.

The day will start at 7am with Mass for the Swiss Guards, their families and friends celebrated by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone SDB in St. Peter's Basilica. At 8.30am Daniel Rudolf Anrig, commander of the Swiss Guard, will place a laurel wreath at the monument in the courtyard of the Swiss Guard barracks commemorating the 147 members of the corps who lost their lives protecting Pope Clement VII from the onslaught of the troops of Emperor Charles V during the Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527. Archbishop Fernando Filoni, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, will then confer military decorations on certain members of the Guard.

Among those present at this year's swearing-in ceremony will be Major-General Andre Blattman, the new commander-in-chief of the Swiss Armed Forces. Also participating as guest of honour will be the Council of the Canton of Zurich. The police band of the canton will play a concert for the new guards and their families in the courtyard of the barracks on 7 May.

"With the participation of a guest Canton at the swearing-in of the new recruits", says a communique released by the Swiss Guard, "the corps intends to promote and strengthen ties with Switzerland and its regions".

The Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 when he called on the States of the "Confederatis Superioris Allemanniae" to allow him to recruit young men to form a Pontifical Corps of Guard. The Guard came into being on 22 January 1506 with the arrival in Rome of a contingent of 150 men who had marched on foot from Lucerne along the pilgrim route known as the Via Francigena. The main duty of the Swiss Guard - which has as its motto "Acriter et Fideliter" (Courage and Loyalty) - was and still remains that of guarding the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces.

The swearing-in ceremony is celebrated every year on 6 May.