What has long been the custom in Cologne carnival and in the German armed forces could now also find its way into the Vatican: The new commander of the Papal Swiss Guard does not rule out opening up the traditional force to women. Recruiting female soldiers could be possible, Guard chief Daniel Anrig, who has been in office since December, said Tuesday on Italian television. He himself could imagine guardswomen "for one or another task". Such a step lies however still in the far future. The 32 recruits who will be sworn in today are still men in any case.
Anrig did not elaborate on whether the female soldiers could also be used in close protection of the pope. In response to a question from the Catholic News Agency (KNA), Guard spokesman Tiziano Guarneri specified that there were logistical hurdles to overcome before women could be accepted into the Pope's force, among other things. The current barracks are not suitable for co-location of men and women, he said. The possibility of female guardsmen would have to be well examined; that would "take a lot of time," Guarneri said. At present, he said, it is also unclear whether Anrig's idea of opening up the Guard also exists on the part of the Vatican leadership. Anrig's predecessor, Elmar Mader, had always stressed on the same question that there would be no mixed-sex corps under his command. "Males and females in a relatively small space, at some point that leads to disciplinary problems," Mader said in an interview on the 500th anniversary of the Guard in 2006. The Swiss Guard is the protection force of the popes. Their target strength is 110 men. So far, only single catholic men who have done military service in their Swiss homeland can become members. They must be at least 1.74 meters tall and no older than 30 when they enter the church. Officers and longer-serving Guardsmen are allowed to marry. This Wednesday, the Guard will swear in 32 new recruits. After a mass in St. Peter's Basilica with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, the new members of the Guard take their oath of office to the Pope in the Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The traditionally on 6. May swearing-in ceremony commemorates the Guard's fight against the marauding mercenaries of Emperor Charles V. at the "Sacco di Roma" in 1527. At that time 147 guardsmen died defending Pope Clement VII.