Pope names new Swiss Guard commander

20th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Swiss police commander Daniel Anrig has been chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to lead the Vatican’s elite Swiss Guards.

20 August 2008

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has chosen a Swiss police commander to lead the Vatican's elite Swiss Guards, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Daniel Anrig, 36, who has a degree in civilian and church law, has been serving as commander general of police in the canton of Glarus, a German-speaking rural state in central Switzerland with an Italian-speaking minority.

Anrig, who is married to a theologian and has four children, earlier headed that canton's criminal police force. He has been a Swiss Guard since the early 1990s.

The Swiss Guards, with colourful uniforms and ramrod posture, have been serving pontiffs for more than 500 years. In 1998, their legend was stained by the slayings in a Vatican City apartment of a guard commander and his wife.

The Vatican blamed the killings on a disgruntled guardsman who, according to the Holy See, then fatally turned the gun on himself.

Anrig, a captain in the Swiss army, will hold colonel's rank in the Swiss Guards. He is replacing Col Elmar Maeder, an attorney and army veteran, who has been an officer of the corps for several years.

The guards number about 110 and must be Swiss Catholics with impeccable reputations.

They stand guard at papal ceremonies as well as help to protect the pope. Vatican and Italian police also protect the pontiff.

Debate has been revived in recent years over whether the pontiff needs more protection during public appearances. In 2007, a German man jumped a security barrier in St. Peter's Square and grabbed the back of Benedict's open popemobile at a crowded general audience.

Maeder and Benedict's chief personal bodyguard were flanking the popemobile, with several plainclothes security men trotting behind the vehicle when the incident happened.

Benedict was unharmed, and the man who jumped the barrier was brought to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, was badly wounded when shot by a Turkish gunman in St. Peter's Square during a public audience in 1981.

In 2006, Benedict marked the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guards by praising them as examples for all young people who want to serve the Church.

The slayings in 1998 were the first killings in the Vatican in 150 years.

[AP / Expatica]

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