Each year on May 6, the new recruits for the Pontifical Swiss Guard are sworn in at an impressive, and ancient, ceremony in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The forty new Swiss Guards are the first group of recruits to go through the new model of training, which includes a month of instruction at the famous Swiss Guards’ school at Isone in the canton of Ticino before beginning their courses at the Vatican.
Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, the new recruits, with their families and friends, and the other members of the Swiss Guard, were received by Pope Francis at an audience in the Sala Clementina.
The presence of so many visitors from Switzerland, the Pope said, “manifests the affection of Swiss Catholics for the Holy See, Christian education, and the good example through which the parents have transmitted to their children the faith, the value of pertaining to the Christian community, and the significance of ecclesial service.”
Pope Francis recalled that the ceremony takes place on the anniversary of the Sack of Rome, when 147 Swiss Guards gave their lives to defend the Pope. Today, the Holy Father said, the Swiss Guards “are not called to this heroic offering of your physical life, but to another sacrifice no less arduous: to serve, that is, the power of the faith.” This, he continued, “is an effective barrier to resist the various forces and powers of this world, and above all he who is ‘the prince of this world,’ ‘the father of lies,’ who ‘goes about like a lion, seeking someone to devour.’”
The Pope emphasized the importance of spiritual growth for the new Guards during their time in Rome. He invited them to pass their time in the Eternal City “with sincere fraternity, supporting one another in leading an exemplary Christian life that is motivated and sustained by your faith.” He encouraged them to consider themselves “an active part of the great people of God, missionary disciples committed to bearing witness to the Gospel” both in their work and in their free time in Rome.
Rome, the Pope said, offers many opportunities for spiritual and cultural growth, which he encouraged the new recruits to take advantage of. He spoke of the example of St Philip Neri, who would help the children he cared for to discover “the traces of the ancient Christian community.” Taking the time “to follow in the footsteps of so many saints who have lived in the City,” Pope Francis said, “will make your time in Rome even more unforgettable and rich in fruit.”