The vice president of the Confederation Viola Amherd will go to the Vatican today to meet Pope Francis and to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of 23 new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.
On the occasion of the traditional swearing-in, the defense minister will meet the Pope as well as the head of the Swiss Guard, Christoph Graf.
According to the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS), today’s meeting with Pope Francis and the commander will focus on bilateral relations between Switzerland and the Holy See, the war in Ukraine and issues concerning Catholics Swiss and the Pontifical Swiss Guard.
Amherd will be accompanied to the eternal city by the president of the National Council, Martin Candinas (Centre/GR), and by the president of the Council of States, Brigitte Häberli-Koller (Centre/TG), as well as by the army chief, Thomas Süssli.
The delegation will also visit the Swiss Institute in Rome, which collaborates with various offices of the federal administration for the promotion of Swiss culture and science.
The ceremony, scheduled for this afternoon, is held every year as usual on May 6, in honor of the 147 soldiers who died during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
According to a press release from the Pontifical Swiss Guard, this year, the new guards will take the oath in the four national languages. Seven of them will take the oath in French, twelve in German, two in Italian and two in Romansh.
Amherd visits the Holy See two weeks after the inauguration of the first Swiss embassy in the Vatican. This representation “will allow us to strengthen our solid and historic ties with the Vatican”, the foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis, declared on 19 April. With the opening of an embassy in the Vatican, Switzerland wanted to dispel a taboo, especially as regards the confessional balance of the country.
The Swiss Guards in service for over 500 years
The Papal Guard is the oldest standing corps in the world to still be in service for over five centuries without interruption. Formed in 1506 by Pope Julius II, it is made up of 135 men in total.
The guards, stationed in a barracks in the Vatican, after their enlistment undertake to guarantee the safety of the Pope for a period of at least 26 months.