By Tracy Cabrera
A SWISS national with Filipino blood was recently sworn in at the Vatican to join the Pontifical Swiss Guard—the elite military unit tasked to protect the pope.
Twenty-two year old Vincent Lüthi became one of the 38 new members of the elite corps who took an oath before Pope Francis on Sunday, October 4.
According to a report from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lüthi is the only child of a Swiss and a Filipina from Santa Fe in Bantayan Island, Cebu. The new Swiss guardsman was raised in Cugy, Switzerland.
Lüthi’s oath-taking was originally scheduled in May but was later postponed in October due to Covid-19 restrictions in the Vatican City. The event was also held behind closed doors.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard was established in 1506 with the duty of protecting the Vatican, the Apostolic Palace and the Pope.
To earn a spot in the ranks of the Swiss Guards, one must be an unmarried Swiss male, a Catholic and should be ‘top-notch’—having completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces, according to the CBCP report.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard (also known as the Papal Swiss Guardor the Pontificia Cohors Helvetica) is a minor armed force and honour guard unit maintained by the Holy See that protects the Pope and the Apostolic Palace and serving as the de facto military of the Vatican City. Established in 1506 under Pope Julius II, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is among the oldest military units in continuous operation. Members wear the dress uniform of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance. The modern guard has the role of bodyguard of the Pope, equipped with traditional weapons, such as the halberd, as well as with modern firearms. Since the failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the Guard’s non-ceremonial roles, and has seen enhanced training in unarmed combat and small arms.
The unit’s security mission is assisted by the Vatican City’s Corps of Gendarme.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard has its origins in the 15th century. Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) had already made an alliance with the Swiss Confederacy and built barracks in Via Pellegrino after foreseeing the possibility of recruiting Swiss mercenaries. The pact was renewed by Innocent VIII (1484–1492) in order to use them against the Duke of Milan. Alexander VI (1492 -1503) later actually used the Swiss mercenaries during their alliance with the King of France. During the time of the Borgia family, however, the Italian Wars began in which the Swiss mercenaries were a fixture in the front lines among the warring factions, sometimes for France and sometimes for the Holy See or the Holy Roman Empire.