An interview with Gabriele Paris, a new recruit, who went with his companions to the Emilia Romagna region, Italy, to provide security at the damaged Carpi hospital

Some Swiss Guards on the streets of Carpi.

Some Swiss Guards on the streets of Carpi.

Gabriele Paris: Our superior said they needed volunteers. He asked my squad, the second, if anyone was willing to go. I said “Yes.”

What did you do there?

Paris: We did security service at the hospital of Carpi, where thefts had occurred, as it had been evacuated. The patients are now under tents. Surveillance was required. But we also helped some youngsters to organize a party; in other words, we did all that was needed. We made ourselves available.

What did the people say?

Paris: Obviously, they were a bit surprised when the first group arrived. Anyway, I was really very happy to be with those people, considering the warm reception we had from them. They thanked us, shook hands with us and were very kind.

Where did you sleep?

The Swiss Guards move a picture from the damaged bishop’s palace.

The Swiss Guards move a picture from the damaged bishop’s palace.

Paris: We all found accommodation in a Civil Defense Authority tent. Fortunately, there were no further tremors during our brief stay. Needless to say, the situation is not the best. I saw houses with large cracks and around these houses people living in tents in precarious conditions. Not far from the hospital, I met a man who told me he had lost everything and had spent nights in his car. A disastrous situation!

Was your idea of volunteering part of your ordinary activity?

Paris: Yes, it’s part of our Christian life; we do a number of activities with our chaplain. As soon as I was asked to go, I said yes, because helping people gratifies me as well as those I help. That’s why I was happy to accept.

And does your chaplain, Monsignor Alain de Remy, support you in these activities?

Paris: Yes, he helps and supports those of us who intend to volunteer in Rome during the year and helps them to find a way and tasks to do.

Msgr. Francesco Cavina (center) bishop of Carpi, with Swiss Guards

Msgr. Francesco Cavina (center) bishop of Carpi, with Swiss Guards (Gabriele Paris is the second from the left), and a group of Swiss Guards in their black shirts in Carpi
All photos by Tiziano Guarnieri, Sergeant of the Swiss Guard

Paris: We wore our drilling uniform, the one we wear for our self-defense drilling, which is definitely more comfortable. Yet we were recognizable.

What about your cooperation with the Italian police forces?

The Carpi Cathedral

The Carpi Cathedral

Paris: We acted in coordination with the police and the carabinieri, who helped us in our security service. They patrolled and did inspections with us and we did the same with them.

You chose to give up your spare time…

Paris: Yes. As for me, I was on duty Thursday morning and during the night, too; we left the following morning in our cars. I gave up my three days off to do this, but I was happy. We are all young and strong. We saw ourselves not only as a squad, but also as a bunch of chums doing things together. It was really a beautiful experience for all of us, an experience which I would repeat in a heartbeat. It was the first time we did something like that.

What is your most vivid memory?

Paris: I enjoyed everything! The spirit of friendship, the people’s smiles. Before we left, a nurse came to thank us with great affection; I liked that. Then I enjoyed the Mass celebrated by the bishop, which was also attended by members of the Folgore Parachute Brigade. They were volunteers like us; it was wonderful. We felt like we were part of the community. When somebody asked us for information about the hospital, we had to help them find the tents which hosted the various wards, and they thanked us. This really moved me.

Did they show any curiosity about the Pope’s guards?

Paris: Yes, some asked us what our service is about; they were greatly interested and wanted to know why we were there.

Swiss Guard taking a break. Photo by Tiziano Guarnieri, Sergeant of the Swiss Guard

Would you do it again?

Paris: Yes, definitely, even if this meant going anywhere else. It’s good to see people happy about what you are doing for them, people in need of your help.

Read interview with the bishop of Cari, Monsignor Cavina by Anna Artymiak

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