Raising Children Within the Vatican: Life of a Swiss Guard Family

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Currents News Staff

While Swiss Guards are constantly on-call to protect Pope Francis and have very rigorous working hours, they also have personal lives.

Around 20 of the guards have wives and families. 

Brenda, Janik and Veronika are three such wives living within the Vatican walls. They each have three children, making up nearly half of the 20 children of Swiss Guards living at the Vatican.

“Living here with the family is, is a great opportunity, not only for us as parents, but for the children as well,“ said Brenda. 

“I think one of the big challenges is the schedules, which our husbands have. That’s one of the things, because obviously, the guard works 24/7, weekends included,” she explained.

For years, only guards who had attained the rank of corporal could get married. This is because there are a limited amount of larger apartments which are reserved for families or married guards. 

But under Pope Francis, all that is changing.

“He accepted the proposal to allow guards marry after five years of service. Before it was only after being a corporal. Now everyone can get married,” Janik explained. 

“Pope Francis himself didn’t like the situation much. So it really initiated with him that he wanted to change the rules. Those rules have now been changed. So you no longer have to be a corporal, which means that your professional success is no more linked to your private life as it was before. I think that’s a really good change,” said Brenda. 

While Janik’s and Brenda’s husbands had both served as guards for Pope John Paul II earlier in their career, Veronika is completely new to the Vatican. She has only been at the Vatican for three months since her husband’s first-time service began.

“My everyday life is very similar to back in Switzerland. I wake up; the bigger children must go to school; then the housework is done. It’s all very similar to back in Switzerland. Shopping and cooking, we have a dog that we go for walks with in the gardens,” she said.

The daily lives of these wives are normal, but just lived out within Vatican walls. 

The children play there all together, but leave the smallest country in the world to go to school.

“They all go to the Swiss school. So to get there and to get back that forces the parents to do things together. We’ve been fortunate enough to receive two little mini buses from a foundation which supports the guards and Switzerland. Those mini buses are driven by the parents in turn,” said Janik.

“They told me, if you have a license, you drive. Ok, that’s fine. Because finding a driver costs a lot and it’s easier for us parents to all take turns driving,” she added.

The parents have formed a tight-knit community with one another, especially the ones who have children. While the Swiss Guards protect Pope Francis daily, the families see him once a year, for the Swiss Guards’ swearing-in ceremony on May 6. 

On this day each year, new guards are able to join the army of men carefully selected to protect the Holy Father.