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Tuesday, May 6, 2003


VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2003 (VIS) - Today at midday in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father received 33 new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard who will be sworn in this afternoon in the presence of family and friends.

In his speech in German, Italian and French, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude to the members of the Swiss Guard "for your loyalty to the Successor of Peter and for the quality of work you do, protecting the order and security of the Vatican territory, and kindly welcoming the numerous pilgrims who ask for your help every day."

After recalling that this afternoon they will swear "to serve the Pope and to especially protect the security of his person and residence," he said: "For my part, every year I am a conscious witness to this commitment, as well as to the faithfulness and generosity of the Swiss youths in providing such a service which shows the attachment of Catholics in your country to the Church and the Holy See."

"I sincerely thank you and I invite you to meditate upon the example of your predecessors, some of whom even gave their life to fulfill the mission entrusted to them to defend the Successor of Peter."

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2003 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in audience five prelates of the Syro-Malabar rite from India, on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Kuriakose Kunnacherry of Kottayam, accompanied by auxiliary Bishop Mathew Moolakkattu.

- Bishop Joseph Pallikaparampil of Palai.

- Bishop Gratian Mundadan of Bijnor.

- Bishop George Punnakottil of Kothamangalam.

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2003 (VIS) - On Sunday May 11, the fourth Sunday in Easter, at 9 a.m., the Holy Father will preside at Mass in the Vatican Basilica and will confer priestly ordination on 31 deacons from the diocese of Rome.

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2003 (VIS) - This afternoon at 5 p.m. in Vatican City's San Damaso courtyard, 33 new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard will be sworn in during a ceremony commemorating the death of 147 guards who gave their lives in defense of Pope Clement VII on the same date in the year 1527.

According to a press release from the Swiss Guard commandant's office, this year's ceremony will be marked by two significant events. For the first time in its almost 500-year history a recruit of color will be sworn in. Dhani Bachmann, a recruit of Indian origin, is from the canton of Lucerne. He was adopted at pre-school age by Swiss parents and has spent his entire life since in Switzerland.

In addition, both the Swiss Guard commander, Colonel Elmar Mader and his vice commander, Lt. Colonel Jean Daniel Pitteloud, will resume a tradition that had been interrupted for 30 years when they wear, along with the other guards, the suit of armor.

At 7:30 this morning, the guards and their families attended a Mass at the Altar of the Cathedra in St. Peter's Basilica, celebrated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At 8:45, in the presence of Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State, they participated in a ceremony to commemorate the dead of the Corps at the Monument to the Fallen in the Courtyard of Honor of the Guard barracks. An audience with the Holy Father took place later in the morning and the swearing-in ceremony will begin at 5 p.m.

Twenty-one guards will take their oath in German, nine in French, two in Italian and one in Romansh, a dialect along with Friulian and Ladin that is spoken in the Swiss canton of Graubunden. Hundreds of invited guests, including friends and family members of the new Swiss Guards, authorities from Vatican City and Switzerland and representatives from diplomatic delegations will attend the colorful ceremony.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard, founded by Pope Julius II in 1506, is currently made up of 110 volunteers recruited from all the Swiss cantons to defend the person and the residence of the Pontiff. Their duties also include guarding the various entrances to Vatican City, security services and forming an honor guard during the Holy Father's religious and diplomatic activities. In addition to serving within the Vatican, a number of guards always accompany the Pope on his journeys. The corps includes 4 officers, 26 non-commissioned officers, 79 halberdiers, and 1 chaplain. Terms are for two years, with the possibility of renewing for another two-year period, up to a maximum of 20 years.

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Vincent Coulibaly of Kankan, Guinea as metropolitan archbishop of Conakry (area 116,572, population 3,750,000, Catholics 40,000, priests 38, religious 100), Guinea.

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