Alain Berset was in Rome for bilateral discussions touching on peacebuilding, human rights, and the maintenance of the Pope’s personal retinue – the Swiss Guards.
The two leaders framed the talks about human rights and conflict resolution in the context of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, commemorated by an international event in Paris over the weekend also attended by Berset.
The Swiss politician also discussed the situation of the Swiss Guards, who have been protecting the Pope and the Vatican for 500 years.
According to the Swiss news agency, the number of Swiss Guards is set to be boosted, while their barracks is also up for renovation. Though they are under the direct command and employment of the Vatican, the soldiers – unmarried (a stipulation set to be relaxed from 2024) Swiss Catholic males between the ages of 19 and 30 – must all have completed basic training within the Swiss armed forces.
The visit by Berset, who currently holds the rotating Swiss presidency position, comes several months after Pope Francis’ June visit to Geneva, where the pontiff celebrated mass along with some 30,000 faithful.
Francis also met Berset during this summer visit and urged Switzerland to do “everything it could” to “deescalate” through dialogue the various violent conflicts in course around the world.
One such conflict, the civil strife in Libya that is partly responsible for the high volumes of migrants setting out for Europe across the Mediterranean, is the topic of a two-day international conference in Palermo that Berset will attend from Monday night.
The conference, organised by the leader of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, aims to develop better solutions to help Libyan leaders and international envoys stabilise the country.