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Friday, December 5, 2014

Is the Swiss Guard Also Too Self-Absorbed, Promethean and Neopelagian?

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Col. Daniel Anrig, Dismissed Commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard Col. Daniel Anrig, Dismissed Commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard

As readers of The Remnant may recall, while in Rome last summer I wrote an article which focused on the traditions and history of the Swiss Guard, and centered around the "giuramento," or swearing in, ceremony of the new Guardsmen. Few, if any, who have come in contact with the Guardsmen are not impressed with their courtesy, their military discipline, and their devotion to the Church.

Along with these very distinctive young men, I had the good fortune of attending a press conference in which the Commander of the Swiss Guard, Colonel Daniel Anrig, impressed the gaggle of reporters by his polished responses to their questions in German, French and Italian, the three national languages of Switzerland. I wrote that each Commander serves at the behest of the pontiff for five years, and then it is usually pro-forma that if he chooses to extend another five years, that wish is granted.


Perhaps in the past, but not now: I was stunned to learn today that Colonel Anrig has been dismissed as Commander by Pope Francis I and will leave his post at the end of January. It appears that the pope believes that Col. Anrig is "too militaristic" in his approach, a novel perspective I assure you.

Recall also that the Swiss Guardsmen who serve as Protector of the Papal Palace, and have done so since 1527, serve in the Vatican in lieu of their conscription requirement in their native Switzerland. They are military recruits...nothing more...nothing less, and formed into a military unit that was described as such in the brochure they distributed to the press in May. To call their discipline "too militaristic" is, I'm afraid, not seeing the forest for the trees.

Unconfirmed reports claim that the pope was appalled recently when he encountered a Swiss Guard who had been standing guard all night. “Sit down,” he told the young guardsman, to which the Guardsman said: “I can’t, it’s against orders.” To which, the pope is supposed to have responded, "I give the orders around here," which he does.

In his quest to "transform" the various Vatican departments, the current Pontifex Maximus has decided that "the old order" must go; hence, Cardinal Burke got the pink slip from the Apostolic Signatura, and now the same applies to Colonel Daniel Anrig. Perhaps the best way to explain all of this was to hear Cardinal Kasper during his recent talk at Catholic University, in which he stated: "The pope is not a liberal; he's a radical." A radical, I might add, who sees little value not only amongst the Church's Traditionalists, but also those who believe that the primary purpose of the Guardia Svizzera Pontificia requires a military style organization. After all, that discipline saved a pontiff once, but that tradition doesn't carry much weight these days in Vatican City either.

There is another aspect of this "drama" that still puzzles me.

On April 22, 1991, my wife and I were invited to St. Peter's to attend the celebratory Mass honoring the 450th Anniversary of the founding of the Jesuit Order. I still have the libretto printed by the Vatican that was distributed that evening, which details the readings and hymns during the Papal High Mass, which was offered by Pope John Paul II, and which took place under the "baldachinno," (canopy) of the cathedral.

During the years that followed their founding, the Jesuits elected St. Ignatius Loyola as their first Superior General of the Order. He modeled the order on a military-style organization; indeed, it was called "the Company of Jesus" to denote its military style. In the following years, a military dedication and discipline to the pontiff marked their meteoric rise, and they became known as "the army of the pope."

Is it not ironic, then, that the first Jesuit pope sees the actions of Col Anrig as being "too militaristic." I doubt that the founder of the pontiff's Order would have agreed.

Remnant Editor’s Note: The following article was published in the June 30, 2014 issue of the print and e-edition of The Remnant. We offer it here for obvious reasons but with the reminder that if you’re not a subscriber to The Remnant you’re missing out on most of what we offer. Subscribe to the e-edition of The Remnant today! MJM

The Swiss Guard:
One Grand Catholic Tradition Still Intact

By Vincent Chiarello
(On Assignment in Rome)
swiss guard rosaryROME—Anyone who has ever witnessed Vatican ceremonies as an invited guest or casual observer cannot but be impressed by the pomp and circumstances that attend these proceedings. Most are not only grounded in an importance to those who participate but also offer a glimpse into history as well. Whether it be a High Mass celebrated by the pontiff under the “baldicchino” of St. Peter’s or the Easter procession, the Vatican, it is said, “knows how to put on a show.”

It is undeniable that the “giuramento” or swearing-in of the new members of the Swiss Guard fits into that category of impressive Vatican events, for not only does the ceremony please the eye, but it offers a glimpse into an event unknown to most Americans: the pillaging and sack of Rome by the mutinous forces of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, on May 6, 1527. The events of that day and the ceremony I witnessed here in Rome 487 years later – May 6, 2014 – are inseparable.

The day prior to the ceremony, the Commander of the Swiss Guard, Col. Daniel Anrig, held a press conference in the Guard’s building in the Vatican which is near one of the major entrances: Saint Anne’s Gate. Security precautions by the Guard are strictly observed and those entering without proper documentation are gently – but firmly – turned away. Beyond that filter are the Vatican Police and Security forces that re-check those who enter. These measures are the result of the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II and the coordinated terrorist attacks throughout the world on Catholic institutions.

Col. Anrig, a tall, slender man in his early 50s, is no novice in meeting with the representatives of the press. Commander since 2009, his 5-year tour ends this year, but he may choose to renew his position. Should he select to extend his tour of duty as Commander of the Guard, his request must be approved by the pontiff or his representative, the Vatican official who is the equivalent of the US Secretary of State. If he decides to return to Switzerland, he will be re-integrated into the Swiss National Army. During the press conference he answered each question in the three national languages of Switzerland: German, French and Italian, fluent in all three.

During the conference Col. Anrig answered many questions about the Guard, but at least two required responses that were diplomatic, but firm: “Would the Guard accept the application for entry from a Swiss Protestant?” Nowhere in the by-laws governing the Guard is that allowance made, and the Commander gave no indication of favoring any change, but his reply was more diplomatic: “Why would a Protestant wish to join an organization sworn to protect the pope, risking his life in the process?”

As if on cue, the next question concerned the entry of females into the Guard. Here the Commander’s response left no doubt that females would not be permitted on his watch, but in reiterating his unwillingness for the Guard to enter the current world of military “political correctness,” he did so with a smile: “Next question?”
Guard members are chosen in a nationwide competition that requires that they be at least 6’ tall, unmarried, and between the ages of 19-30. Although the majority of the new Guard members traditionally come from the German speaking cantons (of the 30 new inductees 24 were from German,  4 from French, and 2 from Italian speaking cantons), it is their religious bond that unifies them. Once selected, each new Guard member will spend 25 months as a member of the Swiss Pontifical Guard.

What may surprise the reader is that 38% of Swiss citizens identify themselves as Catholics, the largest religious body in the 26 cantons that comprise the Swiss nation, this despite the banning of the missionary activities by the Jesuits from 1848-1973. Members of the Swiss Reformed (Calvinist) Church make up 27%, and Muslims 5%. The remaining Swiss check, “Non-Denominational,” when asked their religious affiliation.

The importance of the religious component of the Guard’s tour cannot be overestimated. The soldierly duties involve, first and foremost, the protection of the pope, but they also include learning to accept without question the orders of a superior, and performing his duties with confidence and ability, something learned from working amongst his colleagues as a team. Further, he is required to perform them in a manner that is courteous, but which may, on occasion, require the use of physical force. It is hard to estimate how many times the Guard member will be the subject of a photo from an endless line of tourists and visitors entering the Vatican, or trying to. (N.B.: I was no exception to that rule.) But the new Guard member also wishes to serve his Church, and his time in Rome, to quote the Guard’s own explanation, “... adds to increase his faith and his personal contact with God.”
The Guard not only has its own chapel, but its own chaplain as well. The chapel, which was built by Pope Pius V in 1568, stands alongside the well-known passageway where 42 Guards led then Pope Clement VI to the safety of Castle Sant’Angelo during the sack of Rome in 1527.   In the period leading up to their swearing-in, their catechesis becomes “particularly intense,” and includes the subjects of “the swearing-in and conscience, and the role of the pope and the Church.” To quote the Guard’s own description of this training, “A Guard cannot dedicate his own life and wellbeing, and the security of the pope, without bringing his own ideas and perspective to bear,” further evidence of the importance of the Church in his formation.

During Lent, the chaplain organizes the Guard’s “Spiritual Exercises,” which stress meditation and prayer at Easter. After 8 months of service, a new Guard member may return to visit family in Switzerland.

Prior to his swearing in, the new Guard member will also study the Italian language, since this is the one most widely used during daily tours in dealing with the public. The 110 members of the Guard are divided into three separate units: traditionally, the first is comprised of members from German speaking cantons; the second consists of those from the French and Italian cantons, and the third consists of members of the Guard’s band. Col. Anrig has a Lt. Col. as his second in command (the Chaplain also has that rank), one Major, two Captains, and one Sergeant-Major.

At Christmas, Easter, the swearing-in, and other important ceremonies, the Guard’s uniform consists of a copy of a breastplate used in the 16th century, a helmet of silver color, decorated with a red plume. The Colonel and Sergeant Major have white plumes; the other officers have dark violet. The two sides of the helmet are etched with the figure of an acorn. The halberd, carried by all Guardsmen, was originally used to cut and puncture the enemy and its cavalry, and was widely – and successfully – used by Swiss mercenaries. Each Guardsman also carries a sabre at his side.

While a Guard at Buckingham Palace is identified by his fur hat, a Swiss Guard’s “uniform” is even more distinctive. Mistakenly thought to have been designed by Michelangelo, over the years the design of the outfit varied according to the customs and fashion of the times. That was to change in 1914, when the then Commander, Col. Jules Repond, after studying the subject, suggested to Pope Benedict XV that the Guard’s uniform revert to the colors from the Renaissance. Since Pope Julius II, a member of the della Rovere family, had invited the Guard to Rome in Jan. 1506, the yellow and blue of that family became the colors of the new Guard’s uniform, along with the symbol of the acorn. The yellow, blue and red date from Pope Julius II’s successor, Leo X, a member of the Medici family.

With the timing precision of a fine Swiss watch, at 10:30, the time indicated on the program for the “giuramento” to begin, the three companies of the Pontifical Swiss Guard marched into the Cortile of San Damaso inside the Vatican. History would now repeat itself.

Why the Swiss Guard?
The "Giuramento Begins
swisss ceremonyI have lost count of the number of times I have heard that question asked. What is it that distinguishes the Swiss Guard from any other military group that convinced the papacy centuries ago that these Swiss citizens – and only they – should bear the title bestowed upon them by Pope Julius II: “Guardian of the Liberty of the Church?” Therein lies a tale. 

Led by their commander (or condottiere) Kaspar von Silen, a contingent of 150 men carrying halberds and sabers from, to use Pope Julius’s description, “...the higher part of Germany,” marched through Rome on January 22, 1506; the first contingent of the Swiss – not German – Guard had arrived, passing Piazza del Popolo and Campo di Fiore before reaching St. Peter’s Square. Soon they would assume the positions for which they had been summoned to Rome: protection of the Apostolic Palace, home of the pope. 

Prior to Oliver Cromwell’s hymn-singing “Model Army” in the mid-17th century, and the French Revolutionary Army consisting of citizens a century later, military service had been based on feudal obligations, which imposed time limitations. But unexpected crises arose, and the need to recall organized military forces by the lord of the manor, king, or prince added to the call for standing armies whose presence was permanent. The heads of these personal armies, called “condottieri,” a word still used today, were highly influential, for their words would bring hundreds of soldiers to the defense of any king or prince – for the right price, of course. It may be remembered that when Gen. George Washington crossed the Delaware during the American Revolutionary War to confront his enemies, they were not only British troops, but Hessian (from Hesse in Germany) mercenaries used and paid for by Parliament and King George III.

But as Machiavelli noted, these mercenary armies were often unreliable, sometimes duplicitous, and frequently fled en masse when their lives were endangered. The trick was to fill the ranks of your mercenary army with those upon whom you could trust your life – and your country – which was no easy task. When in 1505 Pope Julius II selected the Swiss warriors, he had written: 

Inspired by God, we intend to use these men to supervise our palace. We are confident that their fidelity and military experience will fulfill all of our expectations. The fact that these men have been chosen to guard the Apostolic Palace will be a cause of honor for all of the people of their nation.

That fidelity and experience would soon be tested.

On the morning of May 6, 1527, word reached the Vatican that several of the walls, including Porta Portese, south of the Vatican, and those of the Gianicolo, a hilly area much closer, constructed to protect the city from invasion, had been breached by the mutinous forces of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. The message was somber: the mutineers were destroying all in their wake. This was a time of reckoning.

The Vatican’s army of mercenaries then consisted of Swiss, French, Italian, Spanish and German units, all of which were ordered to prepare for the onslaught of Charles’s mutinous troops, mainly Spanish, who had not been paid and were hell bent on plundering and killing anyone who attempted to stop them.

The Commander of the Swiss contingent, Kaspar Roist, instructed his 189 men to prepare to protect the pope at all costs; that was their duty and in doing so they would live up to their reputation: The Guard dies but he never surrenders. They would remain at the side of the pontiff, fully aware of the likely consequences.

When the riotous and rebellious forces entered the area of the Borgo, the streets adjacent to St. Peter’s Square, fear and flight set in and most members of the Vatican’s army left their assigned posts and disappeared, as Machiavelli had predicted. There was no obstacle to the capture and ransom of the pope – but one.

Roist ordered 42 of his men to escort Pope Clement VI out of the Vatican to the security of what was originally known as Hadrian’s tomb, but today is known as Castel Sant’Angelo, a fortress along the Tiber near the Apostolic Palace and reached through a passetto (passageway) which still may be seen today. The remaining 147, Roist included, took up positions designed to delay the advance of Charles’s mutinous troops, although the Swiss company’s numbers were dwarfed by their opponents. Roist would remain with them to the end.  None of those 147 men survived, and legend has it that Roist, surrounded by scores of the mutineers, fell on the steps of the high altar of St. Peter’s, not far from the spot where Peter, the first pope, had been martyred. The Guard had lived up to its pledge. 

The fulfillment and honoring of their oath to protect the pontiff, tried and tested in battle, has led every pope since Clement VI, who later returned to the Vatican safely, to place his faith, confidence, and life in the hands of the Swiss Guard. Nearly half a millennium later, that papal confidence has never wavered. 

On that day 487 years later, the three companies of the Swiss Guard marched into the Cortile (Courtyard) of San Damaso inside the Vatican. Thousands of onlookers, invited dignitaries and guests, as well as family of the new Guard members, waited as the three groups formed in front of the papal representative (Pope Francis had attended last year’s swearing-in, but sent a representative this time), the Cardinal Prefect (the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State), and an invited clerical dignitary.

With the three companies in place, the name of each new member was called according to the date of his entry into the Guard, and then in alphabetical order. French speaking Halberdier, Remy Castella, was the first called, and he began the pattern for the following 29: he asked his fellow Guardsman at his side to hold his halberd while he  moved smartly to the site of the induction, where two Guardsmen, swords raised, flanked the white plumed Sgt. Major, and faced the Guard’s second in command, while Col. Anrig, the Commander, watched from the side.

Castella then with his left hand grasped the Guard’s flag, held by the Sgt. Major, and with his raised right hand, thumb, index and middle finger extended, took the oath:

I swear to serve faithfully, loyally, and honorably Pope Francis and his legitimate successors, and dedicate to their defense all my strength and my life, if necessary. I assume equal responsibility for the Sacred College of Cardinals when the (Papal) Seat is vacant. I further promise to the Commander and my superiors respect, loyalty, and obedience.

To this I swear. May God and our Patron Saints (Martin and Sebastian) help me.

All during the reciting of the memorized oath, the three fingers of the right hand remain extended because each new Guard member is also asking the Blessed Trinity to help him fulfill his pledge.
Remnant Columnist, Vincent Chiarello
swiss guardFor the Guardsmen, both new and old, the day was not over. That evening, at the altar of St. Peter’s, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, celebrated a Mass for the Guardsmen and their families. Again, the importance of the religious component of a Guardsman’s time in Rome cannot be underestimated.

As the newly inducted members left the Cortile that sun-filled morning, amongst the spectators there was little doubt that the new members of the Swiss Pontifical Guard would perform their assigned duties as all those before them had done, and in a manner that is guided by the words of their motto: Acriter et Fideliter – fervently and faithfully.

I wish to thank Cpl. Urs Brietenmoser, the Guard’s representative to the press, for his patience and assistance in responding to my questions. I am truly appreciative. ■

Last modified on Friday, December 5, 2014
Vincent Chiarello | Remnant Columnist

Born on the Day of St. Patrick in 1937 in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was a high school history teacher until 1970, when he entered the U.S. Foreign Service. His overseas assignments included U.S. embassies in Colombia, Guatemala, Spain, Norway and Italy; his last assignment was to the U.S. Embassy to The Holy See. He is married to Cynthia (nee Goldsmith) and has three children. They attend a Traditional Latin Mass in Northern Virginia.