Sunday marked the fifth centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, and at midday, during the Angelus prayer, Benedict XVI expressed his thanks for the service they have provided over the centuries. In the presence of several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square, among them a 70-strong troop of the Guards wearing gala uniform, the Pope recalled how "500 years ago, on January 22, 1506, Pope Julius II welcomed and blessed the first contingent of Swiss Guards, come to Rome to ensure the defence of his person and of the Apostolic Palace. Thus the Pontifical Swiss Guard was born. "In recalling that historic event, it is my pleasure today to greet the members of this blessed corps, upon whom, as a sign of appreciation and recognition, I impart my heartfelt apostolic blessing." Prior to the Angelus, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State and dean of the College of Cardinals, had presided at a Mass celebrated in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to mark the beginning of the 500th anniversary celebrations. Cardinal Sodano recalled the solemn vow that new recruits to the Swiss Guard make on May 6 each year to "serve faithfully, loyally and honourably the Supreme Pontiff and his legitimate successors with all your strength, sacrificing, when necessary, even your lives in his defence." After recalling how 150 Swiss Guards entered Rome to defend the See of Peter on that January 22 of 500 years ago, Cardinal Sodano quoted a phrase the Swiss Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli pronounced while he was still a member of the Catholic Church: "The Swiss see the sad situation of the Church of God, Mother of Christianity, and realise how grave and dangerous it is that any tyrant, avid for wealth, can assault with impunity, the common Mother of Christianity." "Even today," the cardinal went on, "these words serve to remind the Swiss Guard of that higher inspiration which must stimulate their service as, with the eyes of faith, they see in each Roman Pontiff the principle of the visible unity of the Holy Church of God." Cardinal Sodano concluded by inviting the Swiss Guard, in remembrance of this solemn anniversary, to have "ever greater love for the Church of Christ." Source: VIS
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