Vatican Prepares for Possible Women Swiss Guards

    05 May 2022

    A new housing center for the Vatican's Swiss Guard force will reportedly accommodate both male and female members.

    The purpose of the force is to guard the residence of Pope Francis, as well as all official entrances to Vatican City in Rome, Italy.

    Currently, only males are permitted to serve in the Swiss Guard.

    FILE - Swiss Guards attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Vatican, May 6, 2021. (Vatican Media/<I>&#</i>173;Handout via REUTERS)
    FILE - Swiss Guards attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Vatican, May 6, 2021. (Vatican Media/&#173;Handout via REUTERS)

    A Swiss organization is raising money to build the new housing center – also called a barracks. The organization signed an agreement with the Vatican's Secretary of State on May 4.

    An official with the Foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard told Reuters the agreement calls for the new barracks to have single rooms with private bathrooms. The barracks where the Swiss Guard now live is a shared space.

    The official, Riccardo Boscardin, said there were two reasons the new barracks will have the ability to separate Guard members. "One is because COVID hit when the project started and the second is the possibility of integrating women into the guard," he said.

    When asked about the possibility of women joining the force, Boscardin said, "this decision is not ours, but exclusively that of the Vatican and the pope."

    The rule requiring Guard members to be male goes back to the year 1506, when the force was created. Members must also be Catholic, unmarried and have Swiss citizenship.

    The 85-year-old Pope Francis has already named women to several high positions in the Vatican administration. In March, he introduced a new constitution that permits any baptized Catholic, including women, to head most Vatican departments.

    The Foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard is seeking to raise about $46 million to replace the current barracks, Boscardin told Reuters. He said work was expected to begin in January of 2026. That date was chosen so members would not be displaced during the 2025 Holy Year, when millions of visitors are expected to travel to the Vatican.

    Boscardin said the site of the current barracks will be kept or rebuilt exactly as it is now. He noted that the new barracks will look a lot like the existing one on the outside. But he said building a new, environmentally friendly barracks will cost much less than repairing the existing one.

    I'm Ashley Thompson.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    accommodate – v. to provide what is needed or wanted for something

    residence – n. where a person lives

    integrate – v. to combine two or more things to make something more effective

    exclusive adj. not shared with everyone

    baptism – v. a religious ceremony held when a person officially enters a religion

    replace – v. to take the place of something else

    displace – v. to make someone or something leave their usual place or postition

    site – n. the place where something happens

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