Domenica, 21 Ottobre 2018
VATICAN CITY

Pope Francis swears in a new crop of Swiss guards

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Vatican City, May 5 - The latest batch of Swiss
Guards were sworn in Monday, joining the oldest and smallest
army in the world.
Pope Francis told the 28 recruits they and their new
comrades should "always be on the look-out to help one another
in moments of weakness".
"Think of your service as bearing witness to Christ, Who
calls you to be authentic men and true Christians, protagonists
of your existence," he said.
The Argentine pontiff told his first new arrivals since
becoming pope on March 13 that the Guard "carries out its duties
with dedication, professionalism and love" and should always
remember that "the Lord walks with you, He is always at your
side to support you, especially at difficult and testing
moments".
In one of the small acts of kindness for which he has
already become famous, Francis approached a young guard at the
end of March and asked him if he had been on duty all night.
Told that he had, the new pontiff promptly got a snack
ready for the man despite his protestations that he had only
been doing his job.
The mood among the new guards was as enthusiastic as ever
Monday.
"I've been dreaming about this day since I was a kid," said
Giuseppe Marioli, one of two native Italian speakers in the
draft.
"Those special soldiers struck my imagination with their
strange weapons and coloured uniforms and a service that was
cloaked in mystery back then.
"I began to understand the reality at the academy, where
the dream of my childhood was reinforced".
The other Italian speaker is Carlo Casecchia who, like
Marioli, comes from the Italian-speaking Canton Ticino in
Switzerland.
"Joining the guards is a real source of pride for me,"
Casecchia said.
"It's something you feel deep down.
"I'm looking forward to the job even though I know it will
be tough sometimes".
The guards' commander, Colonel Daniel Rudolf Anrig, in
charge since 2008, was asked about heightened security concerns
for Francis in the wake of continuing Islamist militant attacks
around the world.
"The media are talking a lot about threat levels being
raised at this time but we've had to deal with equally complex
situations in the past," he said.
The Swiss Guards traditionally swear their oath of
allegiance on May 6 to recall the deaths of 147 predecessors
during the Sack of Rome by Emperor Charles V in 1527.
Only 42 guards survived the attack and ensured that Pope
Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici) escaped the ignominy of capture.
Founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II, the Swiss Guards number
110.
They are recruited from a group of Swiss towns and villages
which for centuries have provided the pope's security watchdogs.
During the Middle Ages and in Renaissance times, the
Swiss had the reputation of being Europe's most reliable
mercenaries - tough fighters who hardly ever changed sides.
Recruitment terms are strict.
Candidates have to be single males, at least 1.74m tall,
practising Catholics, to have completed their compulsory
military service in Switzerland and to be "of stainless
character".
Swiss Guards sign on for a minimum of two years.
In the past the corps has been seen as a springboard for
lucrative posts in some of the world's best-known security
services and banks, but fewer young Swiss have been drawn to the
job lately, preferring to stay in their native cantons.
Part of the problem has been the salary, just over 1,000
euros a month for a raw recruit - though the Vatican is quick
to stress Guards can save about 75% of their pay thanks to
free digs and the city-state's famously cheap canteen,
pharmacy, tailors and health services.
The antique blue-and-orange uniform worn by the guards
was once believed to have been designed by the great
Renaissance artist Michelangelo, but historians believe this
is more myth than fact.

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