VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Three members of the Swiss guards, the armed forces charged with protecting the pope, decided to leave their post after objecting to the Vatican’s vaccine requirement.
Starting Oct. 1, Vatican City enacted a “green pass” requirement to enter and work at the small city-state. All individuals, lay and religious, wishing to enter the Vatican walls must provide documentation proving they have received at least one dose of the vaccine, tested negative to COVID-19 or recovered from the disease.
A document signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin specified that “any personnel without the necessary certifications cannot access the workplace and must be considered inexcusably absent” from work, meaning they will be left without pay.
On his flight back from an apostolic visit to Hungary and Slovakia, Pope Francis said that “everyone in the Vatican has been vaccinated, except for a small group that we are trying to help.” On that occasion the pope also referenced cardinals who are skeptical about the vaccine and hoped they could be persuaded through dialogue and with evidence.
According to the Vatican decrees, employees must pay for COVID-19 tests out of their own pocket in order to receive the green pass if they do not want to be vaccinated.
The Swiss Guards required all its members be vaccinated against COVID-19 given the nature of their job and their close proximity with the flow of people coming in and out of the Vatican and with the pope himself. Of the 135 members of the Swiss Guards, six have refused to get the vaccine, according to the Swiss paper La Tribune de Genève.
While three of the six eventually decided to get vaccinated and are currently suspended until they comply with the Vatican green pass requirements, three others decided to resign instead.
The vaccine requirement “is a measure that is aligned with those of other armed forces in the world,” said the media spokesperson for the Swiss Guards, Urs Breitenmoser, to Vatican reporters.
The three Swiss guards who left did so “of their own free will,” he added.
Pope Francis has lent his voice numerous times in support of vaccinations and has taken part in several initiatives inside the Vatican and beyond to combat vaccine hesitancy.
At the height of the pandemic last year, roughly a dozen Swiss Guards contracted COVID-19, raising concerns of spreading the illness among Vatican City’s mostly elderly population.