Population: 1,000
Government Armed Forces: 100 1
Compulsary Recruitment Age: no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 19
Voting Age: not applicable
Optional Protocol: ratified 24 October 2001
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC

There were no under-18s in the Swiss Guard.


National recruitment legislation and practice

There was no conscription. Defence of the Vatican and the protection of the Pope were the responsibility of the Swiss Guard, founded in 1506 and, with approximately 100 members, the world's smallest army.2 Service in the Swiss Guard was entirely voluntary, and was open to those between the ages of 19 and 30. Entry into the Swiss Guard required that the volunteer be a Swiss national and a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Candidates had also to be unmarried, to hold a professional or secondary school diploma, and to have completed military service in Switzerland. The minimum term of service was two years.3 The voluntary nature of service and the minimum age limit of 19 were confirmed in the Holy See's declaration made on ratification of the Optional Protocol in October 2001.4


Expressions of the Holy See's continuing concern about the impact of armed conflict on children included a statement in the 2006 Christmas Eve Homily of Pope Benedict XVI. With reference to the birth of Christ, the Pope stated that "The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world." Among several examples of such especially vulnerable children he mentioned "children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world".5 In August 2007, during a visit to northern Uganda, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, condemned the Lord's Resistance Army for the kidnap and forced recruitment of thousands of children into their forces. He also called on the international community to increase its funding and support for the reintegration of former child soldiers.6

1 "Pope's guards celebrate 500 years", BBC News, 22 January 2006.

2 "First non-white joins Vatican guard", BBC News, 4 July 2002; "Vatican's honour to Swiss Guards", BBC News, 5 June 2006.

3 Holy See, Roman Curia, "The Swiss Guard: Admission Requirements", www.vatican.va.

4 Declaration of the Holy See on ratification of the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.

5 Holy See, Holy Father, "Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI, 24 December 2006", www.vatican.va.

6 "Vatican official: Ugandan thugs must stop forcing children to fight", Catholic News Service Briefs, 6 August 2007, www.catholicnews.com.


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