DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     May 5, 1999     vol. 10, no. 88

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN CITY (CWNews.com) - With traditional ceremonies later this week, the Vatican's Swiss Guard is almost fully recovered following the tragic events of just a year ago and a series of changes and reforms, according to the Guard's commander.

          A good selection of new candidates and new regulations within the body of the Guard were the subject of a press statement by Colonel Pius Segmuller, a year after the death of commander Alois Estermann and of his wife, Gladys Mesa Romero, killed by Vice-Corporal Cedric Tornay before he killed himself on May 4, 1998.

          For Colonel Segmuller, who was assigned to his post on August 1, "the tragic year of 1998 is finished. Many scars and still open wounds are the silent witnesses of May 4, 1998." It is however necessary "to look towards the future with confidence," he declared. After nine month of service and of observation, the 47-year-old colonel arrived at the conclusion that the Guard is an "elderly lady" who must be treated with "patience and respect and especially with sensitivity to not upset important customs and habits," whereas some would like the 100-strong Guard to "change quickly."

          The primary changes, according to the statement, include the installation of a new recruitment and information service in Switzerland in order to centralize enrollment within the Swiss Guard and to base this recruitment on "objective criteria." Candidates must thus subject to a professional examination and especially "personality tests when that is necessary." The vice-corporal who killed the Estermanns had acted, according to results of an inquiry, in a "fit of madness."

          In addition, three new directives will come into effect on May 6, the day of the renewal of oaths and the acceptance of new recruits for this year, including the Order of Service, the Order of Discipline, and directives on qualifications and promotions concerning internal regulations and discipline of the Guard.

          In other significant matters, the current captain, Roman Fringeli, will be leaving the Guard after thirty years of service. A German speaker, he will be replaced by a French-speaking captain, Jean-Daniel Pitteloud. Four of the officers of the Guard (the colonel, the lieutenant-colonel, the major, and the captain) have all been German speakers over the past several years.

          While May 6, 1998 was a day of mourning in the Swiss Guard with the funerals of Guard commander Col. Alois Estermann and his wife in Saint Peter's Basilica, May 6, 1999 will be a day of celebration for the 35 new guards who will take their oath of service. It is a tradition for all new recruits over the past year to take their oath on this date, in memory of 147 guards who died on May 6, 1527 during the Sack of Rome by the soldiers of Emperor Charles V.

          The new recruits and their parents will be received by Pope John Paul II the day before on the evening on May 5 for a brief audience. May 6 will begin with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran of the Secretariat of State, which will be followed by a commemoration of guards who have died in service.

          The service of the oath itself will be done after midday in the Court Saint Damasus, as in each year, with the exception of last year when it was done privately on June 28. The Commander of the Swiss Military, General Simon Kucher, will be taking part in the ceremony.

          Among the guards who will take the oath are 32 halberdiers and 3 officers, including the commander Col. Pius Segmuller who entered the service of the Guard on August 1 to succeed commander Alois Estermann who was killed on May 6. The service of the oath will be done in the primary language of the guards: 29 will take the oath in German, five in French, and one guard in another language.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

May 5, 1999       volume 10, no. 88


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