Swiss government gives Vatican's Swiss Guard funding boost for barracks renovation

(Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)A Swiss guard stands before Pope Benedict XVI arrives for his "Urbi et Orbi" (To the city and the world) address from a balcony in St. Peter's Square in Vatican December 25, 2012.

The Swiss government has agreed to provide funding of million dollars to renovate the barracks of the Swiss Guard, which has been protecting the Pope at the Vatican since the 16th century.

The Swiss government said on Dec. 11 it would give some $5.66 million toward the renovation of the barracks at the Vatican.

The Swiss Federal Council, the highest executive authority in the country, said it is giving the funds in 2020 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Switzerland's resumption of diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

The Swiss government's contribution is a small part of the renovation's overall budget of 55 million Swiss francs ($62.27 million).

The barracks have only undergone partial renovations since their construction in the early 19th century.

"The accommodation and facilities no longer meet current standards in terms of comfort or sustainability," said the Swiss government.

The renovations will also meet additional personnel's needs since the number of guards in the world's smallest army is to increase from 110 to 135.

The renewal project will include all three barracks buildings.

Two buildings are currently used as accommodation for the unmarried guards and the canteen. The third building has administrative offices and housing for married officers with families.

"The Pontifical Swiss Guard has been protecting the Pope and contributing to Switzerland's public image around the world since 1506," said the Swiss government statement.

"At home, the Swiss Guard enjoys widespread support among Swiss authorities and people regardless of their faith community."

Fundraising for the renovation of the Swiss Guard barracks has been underway since 2016, through the creation of a Switzerland-based charitable foundation.

This year marks the centenary of the resumption of official relations between the Swiss Confederation and the Holy See.

When relations broke down during the Kulturkampf between 1873 and 1920, the Swiss Guard continued to fulfill its mandate to protect the Pope.

The Kulturkampf is the German for "culture struggle" and was the conflict between 1872 to 1878 between the government of the Kingdom of Prussia led by Otto von Bismarck and the Roman Catholic Church then led by Pope Pius IX.

The main issues were clerical control of education and ecclesiastical appointments, and Switzerland was caught in the middle.

The Swiss Guard has connected Switzerland and the Vatican for over 500 years.

"In addition to their ties through the Swiss Guard, Switzerland and the Vatican share the aim of promoting peace in the world through their bilateral relations," said the Swiss government.

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Pontifical Swiss Guards have guarded the Pope for centuries and also take care security at the Vatican as well as assisting tourists visiting the Holy City as this photo taken on June 3, 2008 shows.
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