Swiss Guardsman on Protecting Pope Francis

Sgt. Erwin Niederberger talks to Josh Elliott about life in the Swiss Guard and his new pope.
3:00 | 12/18/13

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Transcript for Swiss Guardsman on Protecting Pope Francis
What a morning we have had. As the weekly audience for pope francis, his last of the year. We got to witness, really up close. And actually, thankfully, very personally, as well. What a morning it was. Incredible. To meet him at long last. And as robin said earlier, took us behind the scenes here at vatican city. I had a chance yesterday, as well, to see a place I have long wanted to see. One of the reasons, of course, people have taken pope francis into their hearts, quite literally, he reaches to them. He embraces so many. He holds fast for the faithful and throngs meet him. It's the job of the swiss guard to protect the pontiff, keeping him safe, as he spreads his message of love. And I got to meet members of this elite force. They are the oldest existing army in the world. They are the protectors of the pope. They're the swiss guards, known not just for the company they keep, but for their trademark uniforms, making them one of the most photographed forces in the world. Pope paul vi said we are the pope's greeting card. So, for most of the people who are coming to the vatican city, the only person of the vatican they can speak to is the swiss guard. Reporter: Seen standing guard at the apostolic palace and the pope's residence, they are never far from the pontiff's side. They're the pope's guards in uniform. Which has more ceremonial roles. And then, they are the guards in black suit and tie. They are there for protection. Reporter: For american viewer, secret service would be fairly similar. Maybe. Maybe. Reporter: And for sergeant neederberger, he notices firsthand, the challenges posed by a new pope for the ages. As pope francis literally walks amongst the masses, relishing their contact, playfully interacting with the faithful. The pope's ministry has been returning it to a church of the people. While that has led to a surge in popular popularity, it makes your job very complex. The pope's ministry, it is, to be seen by the people. Kiss babies, shake hands. He would never used closed cars in st. Peter's square, with bullet-proof glass. Reporter: They're an elite unit, with 110 guards. And the requirements can be quite specific. They are swiss. They are catholic. And their height requirements seemeds to be 5'9". So, I'm a small one. You have to be catholic. You need a certificate of good conduct. You need professional degree. You have to be single male. And then you can become a swiss guard. Reporter: Very specifically, your national loyalty is still to switzerland. But your duty is to protect the pope, the pope's close circle. Yeah. Reporter: And the rest? I have a very special job being a swiss guard. So, maybe my heart is split into two parts. There's a part for the pope. And there's a part for switzerland. I have been obsessed with the swiss guard for most of my life. It was amazing to see inside that armory. And they are very thankful this pope reaches out to the people, even as challenging as it may be for them. Very thankful. And he reaches out to new

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