By Emilie Ng
IF marrying a Swiss Guard is your preference, take advice from Australian Catholic woman Joanne Bergamin.
The Vatican Papal Blessings staff member married Swiss Guard Corporal Dominic Bergamin on November 1 last year, All Saints’ Day, after a whirlwind romance inside the Vatican walls.
The newlyweds shared their story at Faith on Tap at the Pineapple Hotel in Brisbane on January 12.
After moving to Rome from her Gold Coast home several years ago the then non-practising Anglican found herself drawn to St Peter’s Square.
Friends offered her gentle glimpses into the Catholic Church’s teaching, aided by her own studies in theology.
“I absolutely fell in love with the Catholic Church and couldn’t wait to convert,” she said.
An Australian seminarian introduced her to Australian Cardinal George Pell and, upon request, he received Joanne into the Catholic Church five years ago.
A week before becoming a Catholic, Joanne landed a job at L’Osservatore Romano, commonly known in Italy as the Pope’s newspaper.
“I was translating everything Pope Benedict XVI said and did every week,” Joanne said.
“I’ve had the best formation possible as I learnt from the best.”
The new job opened the door to the Roman romance.
“When I would come through the gate to work every day, I would see Dom at the gate,” she said.
“And of course he was very charming and very sweet.
“He used to do lots of nice little things for me and I just thought, ‘Oh, he’s so nice’.”
The feeling was mutual for the Dominic.
“I saw her every few days when she went to work at the newspaper,” Corporal Dominic said.
“I said to myself, ‘She’s a really wonderful woman. I’d like to go out with her sometime’. But I was very shy. I never thought that I would marry such a beautiful woman one day.”
Corporal Dominic’s first date with Joanne came true when she began working as the first woman secretary for the commander of the Swiss Guard.
“And just like that, we came closer,” Dominic said.
“We had an old-style, textbook Catholic romance, like it should be,” Joanne said.
“We were forced into that position, so I now appreciate the teaching of the Catholic Church on cohabitation before marriage, among others.
“I absolutely know why it takes place because I’ve lived with it and it works.”
“Everything went really quickly but we knew when we were together, and we knew in the first month that we wanted to get married,” Dominic said.
He popped the question on St Joseph’s feast day, picking it because the chaste saint is his role model.
A few things can delay a budding romance with a Swiss Guard.
Firstly, Swiss Guards are called to celibacy, and can only marry if they become a corporal, of which there are only 10 in Vatican City.
Secondly, all Swiss Guards work six days a week, and have an extra three days on reserve – which according to the corporal means a Swiss Guard is “never free”.
Thirdly, couples intending to marry must apply to the Holy See’s Secretary of State for permission, and foreigners are taken through a rigorous reference check.
A Swiss Guard also promises to serve and give his life in service for another three years.
And he also cannot marry the secretary to the commander as it is considered a “conflict of interest”.
Fortunately, these were minor issues for the enamoured couple, who married at St Stephen’s of Abyssinians Church, the oldest church in Vatican City, last year, surrounded by family and friends, including Faith on Tap organiser Marisa Scimone, and 40 Swiss Guards.
But the famous Swiss Guard uniform stayed inside Corporal Dominic’s apartment.
“I didn’t want to wear the uniform because I didn’t want to steal my wife’s show,” the corporal said.
The couple will live in the barracks later this year, joining 14 other Swiss Guard families and their children.
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