July 27, 2011. (Romereports.com)
The Swiss Guard is the pope's defense corps. One hundred and ten of them guard his residence and stand tall during the Vatican's main ceremonies. This will be a bit different for World Youth Day. When Benedict XVI visits Spain in August, security will increase and the pope will have a very special defense team.
The group is called the Young Swiss Guard. About 60 children, dressed in the unique and traditional uniform are hoping they'll make the pope feels welcome. Alvaro Zumalacárregui
“The police came to one of our meetings and told us we need to help them in World Youth Day. There are so many people coming, so we have to work together so that everything goes well.”Efren Díaz
Director, Young Swiss Guard
“The little Swiss Guard was born out of affection for the pope, in particular for John Paul II, but also to all his successors. It's an idea that emerged in 1982 to mark John Paul's first visit to Spain. He visited the country again in 1993 and 2003. He was always accompanied by the Young Swiss Guard. And the idea is very simple, we want the pope to feel at home.”
But this process hasn't been easy. Over 450 feet of fabric have been used along with more than 4200 feet of ribbon. All in all, putting the uniforms together has taken roughly 5,000 hours. Santi Peñalver is a professional seamstress who is helping out in this project. Santi Peñalver
"We've been here for three months, so you can do the math. We often work from nine in the morning to nine at night.”
No doubt it's a lot of work, but those on the team say it's a unique experience full of memories.Daniel Arranz“All these memories come to mind, because for me it was a beautiful experience. Being there to receive Pope John Paul II for example, you create a special connection. Then, after greeting him, he gave us a rosary that I still keep. And look, now he's a blessed. The truth is, it's something unforgettable. My Swiss Guard uniform is in the closet. There it is, well kept.”
They may be small, but they're assignment is big. The group will welcome the pope at the Barajas airport. After World Youth Day, they'll meet there again, to say farewell.
These two brief moments will include many hours of simply waiting under Madrid's hot sun. But they say it's worth it, just to make the pope feel at home.