Croat Becomes Member of Swiss Guard

By 10 May 2017

A Swiss national of Croatian origin will protect the Pope.

Although he was born in Switzerland, Nikola Špoljar (21) has always been strongly linked with the birthplace of his parents, Đakovo. He is particularly attached to his grandmother Ružica Ivić (88), whom he still visits frequently in Selca Đakovačka, reports Večernji List on May 10, 2017.

On Saturday, Nikola Špoljar was sworn in the Vatican as a member of the Papal Swiss Guard. As a child, Nikola liked to pretend he was a soldier and once said to his grandmother that he wanted to become a member of the Swiss Guard.

His grandmother last saw Nikola at Christmas. At that time, Nikola had already been training for the job of protecting the Holy Father, but he used one of his few free moments to visit her.

“I have another grandson who is older than Nikola. When he finished school, I told him that it would be best to go to the Papal Guard. He replied that this was not a bad idea, but as he did not like the strict discipline. Eventually, he decided otherwise, but Nikola then said he wanted to try. I am proud and happy for that,” she said.

Nikola finished high school for housepainters and worked for a while. When the time came to join the army, he was wondering whether to do it in Switzerland or Croatia, since he has dual citizenship. He opted for Switzerland, because there are greater opportunities for advancement in the army. Immediately after concluding his ten month service, he filed a request for admission to the Papal Guard. Last summer, he received a reply that he had been accepted. Nikola was delighted and immediately started with his preparations.

He has been in the Vatican for two months now, and on Saturday he gave his oath. Nikola signed a contract for two years, but intends to stay in the Swiss Guard for four years. “Nikola used to come to Đakovo often, but now it is not clear when I will see him again. They told him he must not leave the Vatican for the next two years, unless someone dies or there is a wedding,” said Ruža.

Nikola is the sixth Croat in the service of the Papal Guard. Of course, they were all Swiss citizens, which is the main precondition to become a member. The first Croat in the Swiss Guard was Aleksandar Barbarić in 1998, who was born in St. Gallen. He was followed by Štefan Radoslav Brauer, Željko Pavelko, Ivan Šarić and Andrew Galantay, who will be in the Vatican for another two months.