One of my favorite Vatican ceremonies is the annual swearing-in ceremony for new recruits of the Swiss Guard, which takes places on May 6, the anniversary of the day in 1527 when the Holy Roman Emperor sacked Rome and 147 of 189 Guards died covering the escape of Pope Clement VII.
Pope Benedict greeted the new recruits and their families on Saturday.
The Holy Father thanked them for their dedication, noting that their duty involves not merely a professional duty but “a true mission in the service of Christ and his Church.”
“The Lord calls you to sanctity,” the Pope said, encouraging the young men to undertake their new work in a spirit of prayer and sacrifice. “This will help to make you good Christians and at the same time exemplary soldiers,” he said.
The swearing-in ceremony also marked the end of a year-long celebration marking the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Papal Swiss Guard by Pope Julius II. In 1505 he asked the Swiss Diet to send a contingent of the famed troops to protect the Vatican. They arrived in Rome on January 22, 1506.
Also this weekend, Pope Benedict made two important changes to the Roman Curia.
On May 7, the Vatican announced that Bishop Mauro Piacenza has been named by the Pope as the secretary of the Congregation for Clergy. That post has been open since March, when Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, who had held the office since 1997, was named Archbishop of Eger, Hungary.
On the same day, the Pope named Bishop Michele Di Ruberto as Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, replacing Archbishop Edward Nowak. Both new secretaries will receive the title of archbishop as they assume their new duties.
Piacenza will remain as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology until replacements are named. Di Ruberto is currently undersecretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Many have noted the unusual circumstances that Di Ruberto, 72, is older than the man he replaces, Nowak, 67. Nowak had been in the job for 17 years.
Why the change? Nowak was considered to be part of John Paul’s “Polish mafia”, his inner circle of Polish curial officials. Is Benedict putting his stamp on congregation? It’s widely known that he intends to slow down the torrent of canonizations and beatifications coming from that office. Perhaps this is one sign of that desire. As with many Vatican situations, time will tell.
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