VIENNA (dpa) – The head of the Swiss Guards, whom Pope Francis ordered to leave his post, rejected accusations of harsh leadership and a lavish lifestyle in an interview published Saturday that coincided with the end of his command.
Guards understood that firm leadership was needed because there are only 110 of them to protect the pope around the clock, Colonel Daniel Anrig told the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger, speaking out for the first time since his dismissal was announced in December.
“I have not heard any criticism from the troops that the style of command was too strict,” he said.
Italian media have speculated that the pope wants to see a more modern leadership style, and former guards have accused Anrig of being arrogant.
Anrig defended himself against criticism that he had built a large flat for himself in contrast to the pope’s humble lifestyle.
“The apartment is not luxurious,” the colonel said, pointing out that the flat had to be big enough for his family of six. “I had to bring my own furniture.”
Anrig confirmed that he had wanted to serve longer while accepting that the head of the Catholic Church wanted to “bring some fresh air into the guards”.
The Swiss officer said that contrary to rumours, he saw no indication that Francis wanted to abolish the guards, which have been protecting popes since 1506.
“The current pope is very interested in the guards,” he said.