People walk past a collapsed building after an earthquake in Cavezzo, Italy, May 29. The magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck northern Italy, killing at least 10 people as factories, warehouses and a church collapsed in the same region still struggling to recover from another quake nine days earlier. CNS photo/Giorgio Benvenuti, Reuters

Swiss Guards lay down halberds, volunteer to help Italian quake victims

By  Catholic News Service
  • June 4, 2012

VATICAN CITY - With Pope Benedict XVI in Milan for three days under the watchful eyes of Vatican and Italian police, members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard set down their halberds and headed off to do some volunteer work in earthquake-stricken Northern Italy.

Lt. Col. Christoph Graf, vice commander of the Swiss Guards, told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that it was "a spontaneous act of charity and solidarity."

Twenty members of the 100-strong corps left their Vatican barracks early June 2 and headed to Emilia Romagna, struck by earthquakes May 20 and 29. The death toll from the second quake reached 17 June 4 when a corpse was pulled from the rubble of a factory.

Graf said many of the guardsmen knew Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, one of stricken towns, because the bishop had worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State until November."

The guardsmen "wanted to make themselves available to help him," Graf said, so they got permission from the commander of the Swiss Guards and from top Vatican officials.

Although they left behind their colorful Renaissance uniforms, the guards did do quite a bit of guard work: They provided security at the Carpi hospital and at a public health facility in Mirandola.

Graf said the men also did some manual labor, drawing on their pre-Guard experience as carpenters, farm workers, mechanics, cooks, electricians and mechanics.

The vice commander said he thinks the guards will remember their humanitarian-aid experience forever, not just because they were able to help, but also because "helping people after an earthquake is not very common in Switzerland."

Msgr. Alain de Raemy, chaplain of the guard, told L'Osservatore Romano, "These three free days that the young men offered to help the earthquake victims was the best way for them to spend their time."

The guards paid their own way to the region, the newspaper added.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.