Pope to get 28 new Swiss Guards
The Swiss Guard is to swear in 28 new members today at the Vatican, in a ceremony which will also commemorate the corps' centuries-old task as protectors of the head of the Roman Catholic church.
The date for the ceremony has been chosen on the anniversary of the sack of Rome on May 6, 1527 when 142 Swiss Guards died protecting the pope from the troops of the Holy Roman Empire, and the remaining 42 carried him to safety.
Modern-day recruits, however, are likely to be less motivated by the prospect of such exploits than by mundane issues such as salaries and benefits, said the corps' commander, Colonel Pius Segmueller, noting that although basic wages were low, almost all living expenses were paid for.
The guard, charged with protecting the Roman Catholic leader and the Vatican grounds, currently has 93 members, including those taking their oath on Monday, Segmueller said.
Thirteen other new recruits are to join the corps in June. Founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II, the guard had until very recently suffered from a lack of interest among Swiss youth, leading to the creation in Switzerland of a recruiting and publicity service.
He said that the Swiss Guard has recently experienced "a newfound interest, very recent," which he attributed to "unfavorable economic conditions in Switzerland today, which push young people toward the guard."
Swiss Guards do not earn a high salary, but the associated benefits make the job an attractive proposition, the officer said.
Swiss Guards Quiet About Probe (AP 4/5/02)
The Swiss Guard
The Swiss Guard (Vatican website)
7 May 2002