This past Thursday, May 6, 2010 was the 483rd anniversary marking the death of 42 Pontifical Swiss Guards who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the life of Pope Clement VII on May 6, 1527 when Rome was being sacked by the armies of Charles V. Founded 504 years ago, the Swiss Guards to this day serve to protect and police Vatican City State and to defend even to death the life of the Holy Father and the College of Cardinals during the absence of a pope.
And so, each year on May 6th the new recruits are sworn in. Recruits, among other requirements, must be Swiss nationals, Catholic and male. Thanks to the generosity of a priest friend five of us were able to attend. Unfortunately the impressive ceremony was held indoors due to threatening rainy weather but this decision wasn't entirely disappointing since the Paul VI Hall provided ample seating.The ceremony lasted for over an hour and involved the use of the Italian, French and German languages. After solemnly marching in the guard stood post on the main platform. At that point the comandante reviewed the troops and a (lengthy) reflection was given by the monsignor chaplain. Finally, the actual oath of the guard was proclaimed and then individually each new recruit marched to the flag where he touched the flag with his left hand and raised his right hand with three fingers extended, representing the Holy Trinity.
The young recruits belted out their oath with an impressive vigor and dedication. It was truly impressive, though even more so when it was said aloud in German, not French. Afterward, the band performed a few pieces to the delight of the audience which included the president of the Swiss Federation and other high level dignitaries, both national and ecclesial.