Side by side in their formal dress uniforms, the commanders of the Swiss Guard and the Vatican police led their men and Vatican firefighters through St Peter’s Square and across the threshold of the jubilee’s Holy Door.
Swiss Guard Colonel Christoph Graf and police chief Domenico Giani took turns carrying the Year of Mercy cross as they approached the basilica on 8 September, and both spoke briefly during a prayer service attended by almost all of their men. Obviously, some Swiss Guards, police officers and firefighters remained on duty at their posts, protecting Pope Francis, guarding Vatican entrances and standing ready for any emergency.
“In our daily lives, at home with our families and, especially when on duty,” Graf told the men, “we have the opportunity to translate mercy into action through love of neighbour and a willingness to help.”
Giani told them the joint celebration underscored the “strong bonds” between the forces, who have “the task and mission of guaranteeing the protection of the pope as well as security and public order on this little speck of land” known as Vatican City.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, presided over a prayer service for the men in St Peter’s Basilica, a place millions of pilgrims visit each year to pray, a place tourists visit to admire art and architecture, and a place the men usually enter for work.
With “loyalty, dedication, professionalism and a spirit of sacrifice”, the men make it possible for pilgrims to pray in peace and tourists to enjoy the beauty of things created to praise God, he said. The work is not easy, “especially at a time that requires maximum vigilance”.
Making a pilgrimage through the Holy Door together, the cardinal told them, is “a profoundly ecclesial, communal gesture”, not only uniting the men who make up the corps today, but joining them “to all those who throughout the centuries” have sought forgiveness and mercy through the act of pilgrimage.