This is a special day at the Vatican. Every year, on the first week of May this oath is heard throughout the Holy See.
"...I promise to serve faithfully, loyally and honorably in all that's asked of me. May God and His Saints help me."
Each one of the 30 new guards, takes a hold of their military flag with their left hand. With their right, they raise three fingers, which symbolizes the Holy Trinity. Before Vatican officials, their family and God, they promise to protect the Pope and his legitimate successors at all costs.
This happens every May 6th. That same day back in 1527, a total of 147 soldiers died protecting Pope Clement VII. He was able to escape the attack through the famous corridor that connects the Vatican to Castel Sant' Angelo.
Of course, now times are different, but over the years, the Swiss Guard has become a symbol of the Vatican. To thank them for their service, Pope Francis met the new guards.
"Your service is an authentic testimony, because it shows, in a concrete way, the will to dedicate yourself to something important and demanding. You made this decision with the help of your families and the communities that have educated you. I want to thank them as well.”
As a gift, they gave the Pope a Swiss Army knife, which has become a symbol of their country.
They're recognized across the world, but it's not easy to become a Swiss Guard. First, the soldiers must be Swiss, single, practicing Catholics, be at least 5.8 feet tall and between 18 and 30 years of age.
"First and foremost the Swiss Guard is in charge of protecting the Pope. This includes his residence and all the offices or sites he visits.”
Pontifical Swiss Guard, Colonel
"Having to switch from the Apostolic Palace to Casa Santa Marta was a big change for the Swiss Guard. But this is what we've done for the past 500 years. Our main responsibility is protecting the Pope and his residence.”
As a Colonel of the Swiss Guard, Daniel Anrig is the head of the military. He's part of the Pontifical Family Household, which basically means that wherever Pope Francis goes, he goes.
Currently the Swiss Guard has 110 soldiers. Aside from being the world's smallest army, at 508 years old, it's also one of the oldest.
The flashy uniforms are definitely eye catching. But in their meeting with Pope Francis, he asked the new soldiers to have their personalities and big heart stand out even more than those colors. Especially, when they welcome people to the Vatican.