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Swiss Guard has a new leader

Col. Daniel Anrig, left, hands over his duties as head of the Papal Swiss Guard to his successor Lt. Col. Christoph Graf in a Vatican ceremony Keystone

Pope Francis has promoted the No. 2 officer in the Swiss Guard to head the elite unit of soldiers tasked with his protection. The previous commander stepped down at the Pope’s request.

Lt. Col. Christoph Graf will now command the 500-year-old Papal Swiss Guard, replacing Col. Daniel Anrig, who had commanded the unit since 2008.

Col. Graf, who comes from canton Lucerne, has been a member of the Swiss Guard since 1987.

The formal transfer of power from Anrig to Graf took place a week ago. After Mass, a command ceremony was held in the main courtyard of the barracks in the Vatican, in the presence of senior officials of the Roman Curia and the Confederation.

The Pope announced a change to the head of the Swiss Guard in December of last year. The abruptness of the decision prompting speculation of a dismissal of a man seen as many as “too authoritarian”. 

Faced with much media speculation, Pope Francis himself took to the press to defend the 42-year-old commander from St Gallen, saying Anrig had committed “no sin or fault” and said his departure was a “normal change”. 

The 110-member Swiss Guard has been tasked with protecting the Pope and his palace since 1506. Most recruits serve two-year terms in the unit.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR