The great Latin historian Tacitus had written: "The Helvetians are a people of warriors, famous for the valour of their soldiers." This is why the Swiss Cantons, as allies first of one side and then of another, played such an important role in the history of European politics. In fact as allies of Pope Julius II in 1512 they helped to shape Italy’s destiny and were granted by the Pope the title of “Defenders of the Church’s freedom”.
May 6, the anniversary of the “Sack of Rome” is a date that has special importance for the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps and at the same time it is closely linked to the history of the Church written in the blood of 147 of its sons. In 1527, May 6 meant death, today it means life, since on this day each year the recruits are solemnly sworn in to the Corps.
The Chaplain reads the full text of the oath:
“I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honourably serve the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the See is vacant. Furthermore I promise the Commanding Captain and my other superiors, respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!”
Then, one by one, the new recruits are called by name. Each one advances alone, and with his left hand he grasps the Guards’ standard, holding high his right hand with three fingers open, as a symbol of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he confirms the oath: “I … swear I will observe faithfully, loyally and honourably all that has now been read out to me! May God and his saints assist me!”