Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Pope Thanks Swiss Guards

JMJ+D

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict thanked the Swiss Guards for 500 years of service as papal protectors on Saturday, telling the world's smallest army to carry on with courage and loyalty and be "the true friends of God."

Photo: The Pope blesses two Swiss guards during offertory.

The Pope led a mass in St Peter's Basilica to remember the 147 guards who died in the May 6, 1527 sacking of Rome, the army's biggest loss since its creation five centuries ago. The surviving members saved the life of Pope Clement VII.

The mass was a highlight of months of celebrations honoring the elite corps which protects the Pope and guards the Vatican.


"To be a Swiss Guard means to adhere without reservation to Christ and the Church and be ready to offer your life for this," the Pope said as guards in crimson-plumed helmets, shiny armor and gold and blue-striped uniforms stood ramrod stiff.

Photo: A young Swiss Guard stands at attention as he receives Holy Communion from the Pope.

"I express a deserved and deeply felt thank you and I call on you to carry on with courage and loyalty," he said in his homily. "Be above all men of prayer, so that the divine wisdom make you the true friends of God."

Photo: The Swiss Guards march in St. Peter's Basilica after Mass to celebrate the Fifth Centenery of the Swiss Guards.

Later, 33 new recruits raised three fingers, symbolizing the Holy Trinity, and shouted their allegiance to the pontiff in German, French and Italian at a swearing-in ceremony before some 20,000 people.

The recruits, all Catholics between 19 and 30 years of age who come from the Swiss army, have to be at least 174 cm (5 feet 9 inches) tall to apply for the job.

The Swiss Guard was founded on January 22, 1506, when 150 Swiss mercenaries marched to Rome to serve under Pope Julius II, known as "the warrior Pope."

On Thursday, a small contingent of veterans converged on the Vatican after retracing that march with a 27-day trek from Switzerland.

Today, the guard numbers 110 men. Many of its members still carry the unit's trademark weapon -- a halberd, which is a combination of spear and battle axe. More practically, some of them also have automatic weapons.


By Silvia Aloisi

3 Comments:

Blogger Carmel said...

It would be so nice to attend these happenings in person!

4:33 PM  
Blogger Moneybags said...

Thank you for this post. I did realize how the Swiss Guard came to be. They are quite stunning though. I'd love to see them actually in person. Hopefully, though, I'll eventually go to Rome and be able to see one in person.

4:34 AM  
Blogger Saint Peter's helpers said...

Carmel, yes it would be so nice to witness this special ceremony!

Moneybags, I pray that you will get to see them in person someday!

7:51 PM  

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