VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The annual swearing-in ceremony for the Swiss Guards took place May 6, with 23 new receipts promising to serve and protect the Pope and cardinals, even with their lives if necessary.
The San Damaso courtyard in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace saw 23 new Swiss Guards take their oath of service to the Pontiff, in a ceremony which marked the culmination of a series of events over 36 hours.
In the presence of numerous cardinals, bishops, and hundreds of family members, the new Guards promised to a two-year term of service to the Pope and cardinals, standing before Colonel of the Guards Christoph Graf and Father Kolumban Reichlin. Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra was present representing the Pope.
Fr. Reichlin delivered a charge to the new recruits, speaking on the spiritual nature of their duties, before reading aloud the oath which they promise adherence to. The oath reads:
I swear to serve faithfully, loyally and honorably the reigning Pontiff and his lawful successors, to devote myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing, if necessary, even my life in their defense. I assume the same duties towards the College of Cardinals during the vacancy of the Apostolic See. I also promise to the Commander and other Superiors respect, loyalty and obedience. Thus I swear, may God and our Holy Patrons assist me.
Each new Guard makes his promise of commitment to the oath while holding the flag of the Corps with their left hand, while holding the right hand aloft, with three fingers extended to represent the Holy Trinity.
Shouting his name, each Guard swore “to observe faithfully, loyally, and honorably all that at this time has been read to me.”
“I, Halberdier … swear to observe faithfully, loyally, and honorably all that at this time has been read to me.” pic.twitter.com/eq6NS11Mbw
— Michael Haynes 🇻🇦 (@MLJHaynes) May 6, 2023
The ceremony takes place on May 6 every year, to mark the day in 1527 on which 189 Swiss Guards defended Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome by the army of Emperor Charles V. Some 147 Guards died defending the Pope, while the remaining 42 escorted him to the safety of Castel Sant’Angelo, some few hundred meters down from the Vatican, on the edge of the River Tiber.
The Guards at the time were only recently formed, having been established by Pope Julius II in 1506.
While world-famous for their brightly colored uniforms, the Swiss Guards are not merely a symbolic show of force. The members of the “world’s smallest army” are tasked with guarding the Pope, the Vatican and the Apostolic Palace, along with ensuring order amongst the various papal ceremonies that form part of the Pope’s daily life.
Each recruit must be aged between 19 and 30, and be at least 5ft 8.5 inches tall. He must also be an un-married Catholic.