(Rome) For months, there have been rumors that the Argentine Pope could abolish the Pontifical Swiss Guard. In recent days, the speculation has intensified. This is due to the dismissal of Colonel Daniel Rudolf Anrig, commander of the Swiss Guard. On December 1, 2014 Pope Francis had fired Anrig a native of the canton of St. Gallen. Reasons were not disclosed. The media claimed that it could have been due to the "severity" of the colonel who commanded the papal guard unit since 2008. Daniel Rudolf Anrig will be officially dismissed as part of a military ceremony tomorrow.
The fact that Pope Francis has appointed no successor has fueled speculation about the dismissal of the Papal Guard. In an interview with the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, the Pope spoke highly of the dismissed Colonel Anrig. He was a "great person, a good Catholic, with a beautiful family." His dismissal was merely concerned with a "healthy and normal renewal," said the head of the Church. Since then there has been puzzling over what Pope Francis mean by a "healthy and normal renewal".
Quirky gestures, telegenic looseness or ...
In Rome, it is an open secret that the Argentine Pope knows little what to do with the tradition of the Swiss Guards Corps. Because of quirky gestures it has been speculated that the Pope has little respect for order and work of other show. Once he saluted one guard, as US Presidents are wont to do. So it seems inappropriate when a civilian performs a military salute, as well as the doubt creating the suggestion around the papal scene whether the Pope maybe just made a joke. Another time he went in passing a Guard and shook his hand. The young man laughed sheepishly on the out-of protocol gesture in camera flashes. The protocol was not the focus. The Pope had sufficient opportunity to go off the TV cameras to his guards.
Some observers see in Jorge Mario Bergoglio's phenomenal sense of pleasing and being prone to the media as the surest guarantee of the continued existence of the 500-year-old guard. They are telegenic and strikingly colorful because of the old uniforms, so they will not be dismissed by the Pope. That the announcement of Colonel Anrig's dismissal was carried out during the ad limina-visit of the Swiss Bishops speaks for others against this assumption. A mere courtesy toward the Swiss bishops does not fit.
Protecting the Pope Since 1506
The Swiss Guard was established in 1506. Since then it has monitored the Pope and the Apostolic residences for their protection. It is the only guard from the Papal States, which has been preserved. Most military corps went down with the Papal States in 1870. The enduring guards, such as the Noble Guard and the Palatine Guard were simultaneously disbanded by Pope Paul VI. with the liturgical reform in 1970.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard is not a guard of Vatican City or the Church, but a bodyguard of the Pope. They agree to defend the integrity of the Pope with their lives. While the See is vacant, the guards have to ensure the safe conduct of the conclave as a new pope is enthroned. It is exclusively of Catholic Swiss nationals who have already done their military service in Switzerland and must not be older than 30 on entering and must be single.
In some Catholic Swiss Families the establishment has always been a tradition that a family member serves the Pope. The swearing in of new recruits will take place in a ceremony every year. Each recruit takes the oath in his native language (see Defending the Pope With Their Lives - the Swiss Guard recruits sworn in ).
Once there were numerous Swiss Guards of the militarily efficient germanic mountain people. Thus the King of France had a bodyguard of Swiss and also the Roman-German Emperor in Vienna, which is recalled in the Schweizertor the Hofburg. The Papal Swiss Guard is the only one that still exists today and is one of the most traditional military organizations in the world.
A year ago when Anrig's predecessor, Colonel Elmar Mader, retired, he caused a stir when he spoke of the existence of a homosexual "secret society" at the Vatican, which constitutes a "security risk".
To date, there is only speculation and the familiar shooting in the weeds. Remarkable it is that it could ever come to such speculation. This has to do with certain known signals and especially with a perceived climate.