A Swiss-based foundation has been charged with raising CHF50 million ($50 million) to renovate barracks that have been earmarked to house the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican.
The foundation was established in canton Solothurn in 2016 to support the work of the Swiss Guard. Former Swiss central bank chairman Jean-Pierre Roth is in charge of the renovation project and heads the foundation, according to La Liberté.
The Pope’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, gave the green light in June for the foundation to raise the necessary funds, he told the newspaper. The money must first be raised before construction work can begin.
The new Swiss Guard command centre, covering 14,200 square metres, has been in use since the beginning of last year, and was officially inaugurated last September. Around 110 Swiss troops are stationed there but the number is set to go up to 135.
But at least one building dates back to 1825, so a lot of work needs to be done to get it into shape to permanently house the guards and to meet modern-day building regulations. Three buildings with damp problems need to be demolished and a third rebuilt. "It's very hot in summer and cold in winter," Roth said.
Swiss soldiers have been stationed near Rome to guard the Pope and his palace since 1506. Roman Catholics account for about 38% of the Swiss population.