Kolumban Reichlin, chaplain of the Swiss Guard: "Every day of his life, service to the Holy Father has priority for the Swiss Guard".

The Benedictine Kolumban Reichlin is, since 2021, the chaplain of the Swiss Guards Corps that defends and protects the Pope.

Hernan Sergio Mora-May 19, 2024-Reading time: 4 minutes
Swiss Guard chaplain: "Every day of his life, service to the Holy Father has priority for the Swiss Guard".

Swiss Guard in position ©CNS Media / Vatican Media

Every May 6, in the courtyard of 'San Damaso' in the Vatican, resounds the oath of the new recruits to the Swiss Guard. It is the smallest army in the world, founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II, and charged with the surveillance, security and protection of the Pontiff inside the Apostolic Palace, during his travels and services of honor and at audiences and receptions.

34 new guards swore allegiance to the Pope last May 6, on the anniversary of the 1527 sack of Rome (Sacco di Roma), when most of the members of this corps died defending Pope Clement VII from the lansquenets of Charles V of Habsburg's army.

Audience of new Swiss Guard recruits with the Pope on May 6, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

An emotional ceremony during which the chaplain of the Swiss GuardKolumban Reichlin, a Benedictine, appointed by Pope Francis on September 1, 2021, read in its entirety the oath:

"I swear to serve faithfully, loyally and honorably the Supreme Pontiff Francis and his legitimate successors, as well as to dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing, when necessary, even my life for their defense.

I also assume these commitments with respect to the Sacred College of Cardinals for the duration of the vacancy of the See.

I also promise the Captain Commander and my other superiors respect, loyalty and obedience. I swear it. May God and our Patron Saints assist me".

After the reading, the new recruits, called one by one by name, come forward and with their left hand on the flag of the Guard and their right hand raised with three fingers open, as a symbol of the Trinity, swear: "I..., swear to observe faithfully, loyally and honorably all that has been read to me at this time. May God or his saints assist me".

The Pope with Swiss Guard Commander Christoph Graf and Chaplain Kolumban Reichlin on May 6, 2024 ©CNS photo/Vatican Media

On the occasion of this new anniversary, Omnes interviewed Father Kolumban Reichlin, who explained some details about the spirituality of these soldiers.

How many Swiss Guards are there and how long does their service last?

- The target is 135 men. Guardsmen commit to serve at least 26 months, although some stay longer and continue for one or even several more years.

Are they married or do they have to be single?

- When guardsmen join the corps, they must be single. After five years of service, they may marry. There are currently 24 married guardsmen, with a total of 21 children.

What is the spirituality of a Swiss guard like?

- What characterizes the Guardsmen is, above all, their willingness to serve, their sense of community and their zest for living life. Every day of their lives, service to the Holy Father takes priority over their personal plans and interests. And the close coexistence they have for two years in the large Swiss Guard family, made up of more than one hundred people, demands and fosters great social skills.

And in all this, the guards are young people who love life, and in this there is much of what Jesus teaches in the Gospel.

What religious activities are there in barracks life?

- Every day, we celebrate Holy Mass in the Guard Chapel. On weekends, four.

In addition, the guards have the opportunity to participate in Eucharistic Adoration twice a week and to pray the rosary together.

Once a month there is a family Holy Mass followed by an aperitif and lunch together. The patron saints of the guards are also celebrated: St. Martin, St. Sebastian and St. Nicholas of Flüe.

Do the guards always have to be Swiss and Catholic?

- It is like this. To be a Swiss guard, one must be a Swiss citizen, a Catholic and be familiar with Christian practice; the latter must be confirmed in writing by the parish priest or the head of the parish in which the candidate to join the corps lives.

Is it true that some have discovered a religious vocation?

- Yes, it is a gift and a great joy that spiritual vocations are awakened or strengthened repeatedly during their stay in the Guard, and that sometimes they study theology, enter a seminary or join a religious community once they return to Switzerland.

What is their relationship with Pope Francis?

- In conversations with the guards, I always perceive a great esteem for Pope Francis. His authentic, credible and fatherly manner impresses and edifies them.

He is like a grandfather to them, always grateful, interested, with a word of encouragement on his lips.

And what do their families say?

- In my opinion, most families are proud of their sons' and brothers' decision to serve in the Swiss Guard and also of their testimony of dedication, discipline and sense of responsibility at such a young age.

Tell us something interesting about your experience...

- What fascinates me about my service as a Guard chaplain is to see how these young men, as they are challenged and promoted during their service and life in the Guard, make great strides in the development of their personalities.

They can almost be see the buds grow and begin to blossom. It is a privilege to see how life develops, grows and matures and, as a chaplain, to be able to accompany, encourage and promote this process humanely and spiritually as a midwife, so to speak.

The authorHernan Sergio Mora

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