Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Holy See

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Holy See, 2001, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population: 813
  • Government armed forces:
    – active (Swiss Guard): 106
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18
  • Voting age (government elections): not applicable
  • Child soldiers: none indicated
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 10 September 2000; supports "straight-18" position
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II
  • There are no indications of under-18s in government armed forces, which comprise the smallest army in the world.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

The Swiss Guard is the world's smallest army, consisting of only 106 men: the commander, five officers (including a chaplain) and 100 soldiers.823 To qualify for the guard, one must be Swiss at birth, Roman Catholic, unmarried and between 18 and 25 years of age. Candidates must be over 1.74 metres tall and good looking but this regulation is not enforced strictly. Candidates must have a secondary school diploma, initial military training required by Swiss law, and a certificate of good conduct from an ecclesiastical and a civil authority.824 A number of changes have been made to centralise and standardise recruitment procedures. New directives were issued in May 1999 concerning qualifications, promotions and discipline.825

The members of the Swiss Guard reside in Vatican City and their official language is German. They serve for two years, with the possibility of extending the period to a maximum of 25 years. During this period they receive training in self-defence, languages and spiritual formation. At the end of the first year they must take a very thorough examination.826



The Holy See has expressed its concern about the use of children in armed conflicts on many occasions. In 1997, Pope John Paul II urged political and social leaders "inspired by the principle of morality and law, (to) do everything to prevent children from becoming participants in war, being forced to bear arms and kill their peers".827 On 1 January 1999, in his message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, Pope John Paul II reiterated his concern on child soldiers.828 In February 2001, Pope John Paul II devoted a month of prayer to an end to the exploitation of children in armed conflict: "that children never again will be obliged to participate in any war, but may be freed from hatred and violence and may live, as children should, enjoying friendship in their family, school and society."829

International Standards

The Holy See signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 10 September 2000 and supports the "straight-18" principle.


824 "Curia profile: the Pontifical Swiss Guard", Vatican Information Service, 17/7/96.

825 "Swiss Guard commander sees year of mourning, recovering as complete just as Swiss Guard prepare to formally receive new recruits, officers", Daily Catholic, Vol. 10, No. 88, 5/5/99.

826 Website of the Swiss Embassy in Washington:

827 Regina Caeli, 6/4/97.

828 Peace's Day, Message of His Holiness John Paul II, Rome, 1/1/99. This position was reiterated by the Holy See delegation to the European Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, 18-20 October 1999. Its representative stated that: "It is the clear and constant position of the Holy See that children should have no role in armed conflicts, and the Holy See accordingly regrets the lack of consensus in the discussions on the Optional Protocol.".

829 CSC, Update 8 and Press Release, 2/01.

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