The canton of Lucerne will not pay 400,000 Swiss francs for the construction of the new Swiss Guards’ barracks at the Vatican: the budget was largely refused by more than 70% of the votes, during the referendum convened by the socialist and the free thought party. A sign of the loss of Catholic vitality in a canton that is still historically attached to the Church.
For more than three centuries, between 1548 and 1878, it was in the canton of Lucerne that the men dedicated to the protection of Peter's successor were recruited exclusively.
But the weight of history did not weigh very heavily on the banks of the Reuss on September 25: with 71.5% voting “no,” the people of Lucerne came out against the contribution of 400,000 Swiss francs – 416,000 € approximately – estimating that the Vatican “could itself finance” the construction of the new barracks for the Swiss Guard.
Recall that the project was launched in 2016 by the Foundation for the Renovation of the Barracks, given that the current buildings, built in the 19th century, had never been restored, thus generating particularly heavy maintenance costs due to the lack of building insulation. Not to mention the cramped premises which currently house 110 guards, a number expected to grow to 135.
The Foundation is supposed to raise 45 million Swiss francs, or 47 million euros, to demolish the dilapidated buildings and build brand new barracks instead: the Swiss Confederation has already donated 5 million euros. The cantons are expected to contribute more than an additional 4 million.
But in Lucerne, the left-wing parties allied with Free Thought succeeded in calling a referendum and winning the support of a large part of the voters: “It is a great defeat for conservatism in Lucerne,” David Roth, president of the cantonal PS, was pleased to note.
The socialist sees the election results not a sign of religious hostility, but in particular a question of money: “400,000 CHF is not in itself a large sum, but in recent years we have implemented strong cost reduction measures in Lucerne. The schools have suffered a lot, there have been layoffs. And now we should give money to fund military quarters abroad?” he asks.
As for the Swiss Guards, they also want to put the scope of the vote into perspective: “It is obviously disappointing. But it was not a vote against the Guard, the debate was on other subjects. Even in the opposing camp, there is sympathy and esteem for the work of the Swiss Guard. The contentious point was who should take care of the financing,” comments Stefan Wyer, head of the Guards’ Swiss media office.
And he added: “The Guard needs modern housing. We are confident that we will still be able to carry out the project. Indeed, Lucerne's refusal is rather symbolic, because the Foundation for the Renovation of the Barracks will have no trouble finding the missing 400,000 CHF.
But the “no” of September 25, 2022 says a lot about the dechristianization of a canton where Catholics are still in the majority.