May 6th: The Recruits Take their Oath of Loyalty
There is a date in the history of the Swiss Guard in the Vatican, that is closely linked with the history of the Church herself, because it was a day marked by the blood of 147 of her sons: May 6th, 1527, the Sack of Rome. This date, which in 1527 was a day of death, today, is a day of life, because each year on this day, the new recruits take their solemn oath of loyalty. It is a most moving ceremony which takes place in the historic St. Damaso Courtyard within the Vatican City, in the presence of religious personalities, political and military representatives of the Swiss Confederation and many relatives, friends and admirers of the Guard. The Guard, from the Commandant down to the newest Halberdier, is in full dress-uniform, a marvellous sight. The band with its superb drummers is warmly applauded. The Chaplain, Msgr Alois Jehle, gives a solemn reading of the oath:
“I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honourably serve the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II 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!”
Then one by one the new recruits are called by name. Each one advances alone, and with his left hand he grasps the Guarďs standard, holding high his right hand with three fingers open, as a symbol of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he confirms the oath:
“I, . . ., swear I will observe faithfully, loyally and honourably all that has now been read out to me! May God and his saints assist me!”
These saints included especially the Guard’s Patrons, St. Martin (November 11th), St. Sebastian (January 20th), and St. Niklaus von Flüe, “Defensor Pacis et pater patriae” (September 25th).