Barrack renovations may open possibility for female Swiss Guards

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An agreement between the Vatican and a Swiss foundation overseeing renovations to the Swiss Guard barracks may open the possibility to women joining the military corps in the future.

The agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding, was signed May 4 by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Jean-Pierre Roth and Stephen Kuhn, president and vice president of the Foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, respectively.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Riccardo Boscardin, a foundation executive, said the current renovation project includes "single rooms with private bathrooms."

"There are two reasons. One is because COVID hit when the project started, and the second is the possibility of integrating women into the guard," he said.

However, Boscardin told Reuters the decision whether to allow female recruits to the Swiss Guard "is not ours but exclusively that of the Vatican and the pope."

Also present at the signing of the agreement was Denis Knobel, the Swiss ambassador to the Vatican; Sister Raffaella Petrini, secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City State; and Colonel Christoph Graf, commander of the Swiss Guard.

The memorandum was signed two days before the swearing-in ceremony of several new recruits, held May 6 each year to commemorate the Sack of Rome in 1527 when 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII.

The Vatican said the agreement "attests to the common will" of both parties to ensure "better and environmentally friendly housing conditions for the guards, their families and those who assist them in various ways."

According to Vatican News, plans to renovate the 150-year-old barracks began in 2016. Although the initial planning phase was delayed due to the pandemic, renovation work on the barracks is set to begin at the end of the 2025 Jubilee Year.

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