VATICAN CITY, APR 29, 2005 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. on May 6 in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, thirty-one new recruits will be sworn in as members of the Pontifical Swiss Guards in the presence of members of the Roman Curia, diplomatic representatives and civil and religious authorities from Switzerland. Twenty-five will take their oath in German, four in French, one in Italian and one in Romansch. From the commandant to the newest halberdier of the 110-man corps, all Swiss Guards are in full dress uniform on this day.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 as a stable corps, directly dependant on the Holy See, whose main duties were to guard the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces.
The day will start at 7:30 a.m. with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Swiss Guards and their family members and friends. At 9 a.m., Archbishop Leonardo Sandri will confer military decorations on members of the corps, and the commander of the guards will place a laurel wreath at the monument that honors the fallen members of the corps. May 6, in fact, is the date chosen for the swearing-in ceremony of the new guards because on that date in 1527, 147 members of the 189-member Swiss Guards lost their lives during the Sack of Rome when they fell in battle, protecting Pope Clement VII and the Church from the onslaught of the troops of Emperor Charles V.
The oath is read by the Swiss Guard chaplain: "I swear to faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the See is vacant. Furthermore I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me."
Each recruit is then called by name and, in his native tongue, confirms the oath. The patron saints of the Pontifical Swiss Guards are St. Martin, St. Sebastian and St. Niklaus von Flue, "defender of the peace and father of the Country."
To become a guard, one must be a Swiss Catholic male under the age of 30, unmarried, over 174 cm (5' 8") in height and with a professional diploma or high school degree. The candidate must have attended Swiss military school. Guards live inside Vatican City. The minimum term of service is two years.