KEY POINTS

  • The Holy See has a vaccine mandate for all Swiss Guards
  • The city requires either a negative test or proof of vaccination from everyone entering
  • Pope Francis, who is vaccinated, has also urged people to get inoculated 

Three Vatican Swiss Guards have voluntarily gone back home to Switzerland after they refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 under a Vatican mandate that required all of its Swiss Guards to be immunized from the virus.

Speaking with The Associated Press, Swiss Guard official Lt. Urs Breitenmoser said the three guards “have chosen not to adhere to that request, voluntarily leaving the corps.” The Holy See has mandated its Swiss Guards to “protect their health and that of the others they come into contact with as part of their service.”

The official added that three other members of the guard have been put on temporary suspension from duty while they wait for a vaccination schedule.

Last month, the head of the Pontifical Commission of Vatican City State issued an ordering that required all people entering Vatican areas to either have a negative COVID-19 test result or be vaccinated from the disease, Breitenmoser said. 

All employees and senior clerical staff have also been required by the Pope to get vaccinated. Pope Francis, 84, himself has been vaccinated and has repeatedly urged people to get inoculated to protect their health and be of altruistic benefit to other people.

Swiss Guards stand guard during papal ceremonies at different entrance points of the walled city. It is part of their responsibility to protect the pontiff. They are required to wear protective surgical masks while on guard duty.

In an August public service ad, Pope Francis stressed the value of getting immunized. “Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. And helping the majority of people to do so is an act of love,” he said. The pontiff said getting vaccinated from COVID-19 “is a simple yet profound way” to care for others, especially those who are most at-risk of contracting the virus.

The Holy See has reported 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started, data from Worldometers revealed. No deaths have been linked to the virus in the city so far.

In Statista’s update of coronavirus cases in Italy as of Sept. 29, Rome, where the Vatican is located, has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the European country with 278,672 infections. As of Monday, Italy logged more than 4.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 131,000 deaths from the disease.

Swiss Guards in St. Peter's square Swiss guards stand guard in front of the gate where Cardinals arrive to attend a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican, March 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile