Sunday, in the Vatican Basilica the Pope presided at a Eucharistic celebration to mark the fifth centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Civil and military authorities from Switzerland and other countries participated in the ceremony, as did relatives and friends of the Guards, and military chaplains.

Commenting in his homily on the readings from the Book of Wisdom and St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Holy Father affirmed that “whoever, fascinated by wisdom, seeks and finds it in Christ, leaves everything for Him, receiving in exchange the priceless gift of the Kingdom of God; and, clothed in temperance, prudence, justice and strength (the ‘cardinal’ virtues), he lives his witness of charity within the Church.”

Benedict XVI then asked whether “this vision of mankind may constitute an ideal of life, even for the men and women of our own time, especially the young,” like the Pontifical Swiss Guard who, “motivated by love for Christ and the Church, put themselves at the service of Peter’s Successor.”

Recalling how some of the Swiss Guards sign up for a limited period while others decide to offer their services for their whole lives, the Pope also expressed his joy for those whose service in the Vatican “brought them to mature a response to a priestly or religious vocation.”

He went on: “Nonetheless, for everyone, being Swiss Guards means an unreserved adherence to Christ and to the Church, and a readiness to give one’s life. Actual service may cease, but in your hearts you always remain Swiss Guards, a fact testified by the nearly 80 former Guards who, from April 7 to May 4, made the extraordinary march from Switzerland to Rome, mainly following the old pilgrim route of the Via Francigena.”

The Pope then invited those present to draw nourishment from the Eucharist and to be above all “men of prayer, that divine wisdom may make you true friends of God and servants of His Kingdom of love and peace. It is in the sacrifice of Christ that the service of your long line of predecessors over these 500 years acquires completeness of meaning and value.”

The Holy Father concluded by thanking the Guards, also in the name of other pontiffs whom they “served faithfully” over the centuries; and he called on them to continue their progress “‘acriter et fideliter,’ with courage and loyalty.”

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