The renovations will proceed, but without the support of Switzerland's Lucerne Canton.
A Swiss canton has voted to block funds for the upcoming renovations to the Swiss Guard’s barracks, in Vatican City. The decision was made by means of a vote in which more than 70% of Lucerne canton’s citizenry voted in opposition to the funding.
The Lucerne Canton was originally set to support the Swiss Guard with funding equivalent to a little more than $400,000. Swissinfo reports a referendum challenging this contribution was forced by the anti-clerical Freethinkers Association as well as several left-wing political parties.
Aleteia previously reported that one of the main goals of the renovations to the barracks was to make them habitable for female members of the Swiss Guard. While there are no current female guards, the renovations were proposed to prepare for the eventuality of the admission of women to the ranks. For this to happen, Crux notes, they would need more “single room” accommodations, of which there are currently only 12 to serve the 135-man army.
The renovations would also have addressed concerns that the current housing, built in the 19th century, is sorely out of date. On top of that, the guards are quite cramped, with small rooms that house multiple guards. Plans to renovate were unveiled at the Vatican last year, with the goal of completion by 2026, the 520th Anniversary of the Swiss Guard.
The loss of the $400,000 from Lucerne Canton will impact the updates, but it will not stop the renovations from proceeding. The full job is estimated at some $60 million, so Lucerne’s withdrawal was not a make-or-break scenario. The Swiss Guard was, however, hurt by the rejection from Lucerne Canton, with which they have historically shared strong ties.
Press secretary for the Swiss Guard Manuel von Däniken told Crux that they were disappointed with the decision, but they do not consider it a “vote of no confidence” in the Swiss Guard. Before reiterating the need for the barracks to be brought up to modern standards, he said:
“Lucerne’s contribution to a contemporary and sustainable accommodation that corresponds to today’s living conditions will now be missing” and has to be “compensated by other means,” he said, but voiced confidence that the new barracks “can be realized.”