A complete rebuild and expansion of the living quarters for the Swiss Guard will not only improve life for guards and their families, it will also allow for the future possibility of recruiting women.
Currently, applications to serve in the 15-year-old corps are open only to Swiss male citizens who served in the Swiss Army and are Catholic, under 30 years of age and athletic, stand at least 5 feet 8 inches tall and boast an “unblemished reputation.”
But, at least since the new millennium, the overriding obstacle that stood in the way of opening the door to women had been housing, not gender. There is one barracks with most men living in cramped and shared spaces.
“Sixty percent of our corps is under the age of 25; women in the same barracks (as the men) would create big problems,” Col. Elmar Mäder, then-commander of the Swiss Guard, said in 2004, explaining why he would never allow women in the guard at the time.
The succeeding commander, Col. Daniel Anrig, told reporters in 2008 that he would love to allow female recruits, but such a move could be con-sidered only “when the circumstances change,” specifically, the housing situation.
Those circumstances are now set to change in the coming years after a massive rebuilding project breaks ground with a projected completion by 2026 – the 520 anniversary of the founding of the Swiss Guard. It is scheduled to be inaugurated May 6, 2027 – the 500 anniversary of the Sack of Rome, when 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII.
Jean-Pierre Roth, director of the “Foundation for the Renovation of the Barracks of the Papal Swiss Guard in the Vatican,” told Catholic News Service by email Sept. 13 that the new project plans for 123 single rooms distributed over four different floors. Today there are only 12 single rooms, he said.