Vatican: Swiss Guards wear masks for first time

Vatican postpones swearing-in ceremony of Swiss Guards until October.

Like Italy, the Vatican also enters its own Phase Two of the coronavirus emergency with the Swiss Guards on duty now wearing face masks for the first time.

The annual ceremony to swear-in new Swiss Guards, traditionally held on 6 May, has been moved to 4 October due to the covid-19 crisis, reports the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

The pomp-filled event, which is normally held in the S. Damaso courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, sees the new guards take a solemn oath of allegiance to the pope.

The ceremony commemorates 6 May 1527, when 147 Swiss Guards died protecting Pope Clement VII from the army of the Holy Roman Emperor. The pope fled via the 800-m Passetto di Borgo passageway to the nearby refuge of Castel S. Angelo.

The anniversary will not go unmarked in 2020, however, with a commemoration ceremony attended by a handful of guests being live-streamed at 17.00 on 6 May.

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The 135 current Swiss Guards belong to the world's oldest standing army which celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2006.

The guards must be male and of Swiss nationality, as well as being Catholic, unmarried and aged between 19 and 30.

They must also have undergone intensive Swiss military training and be a minimum height of 174 cm.

In addition to protecting the pope, the army performs ceremonial duties and assists at Vatican functions, and is famous for its ancient halberd weapons and its blue, gold and red uniform.

Led by Commander Christoph Graf, the soldiers serve for between two and 25 years at the Vatican.

Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

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Vatican: Swiss Guards wear masks for first time

00120, Vatican City