Vatican welcomes 26 Swiss Guards into oldest army

Associated Press Modified: May 6, 2012 at 7:30 am •  Published: May 6, 2012
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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Twenty-six Swiss men have joined the oldest standing army in the world, swearing to give up their lives to protect the pope as the Vatican's newest Swiss Guards.

The swearing-in ceremony took place Sunday inside the Vatican auditorium — a last-minute change due to rain. Usually it is held in the St. Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace.

The ceremony is held each May 6 to commemorate the day in 1527 when 147 Swiss Guards died protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome.

The guards, who sign up for a minimum of two years, must be upstanding, single, Swiss Catholic men under age 30. Famous for their blue-and-gold uniforms, halberds (spearlike weapons), and crimson-plumed helmets, they protect the pope, provide ceremonial duty and assist at Vatican functions.