The guards in charge of protecting Pope Francis and the Vatican grounds have received new high-tech helmets. The new helmets are made of plastic material created through 3-D printing technology. Previously, guard members wore handmade helmets made of metal.
The helmets were given to the Vatican’s Swiss Guard on January 22, the group’s 513th birthday. They are the colorfully dressed security force that helps protect the pope.
The force numbers about 110 people. Members are required to be male, Catholic, unmarried and have Swiss citizenship, the Catholic website Crux reports. They must be between the ages of 19 and 30, at least 1.7 meters tall, and be willing to serve in the guard for at least two years.
The helmets are part of the Swiss Guard’s ceremonial clothing. These official uniforms include yellow, red and blue stripes on the parts covering the arms and legs. Guard members dress this way for official religious services by the pope or for Vatican visits by heads of state.
The new helmets look almost exactly like the old ones, with a round design and colorful bird feathers on top. One major change was added to the new helmets –an image with the coat of arms symbol for Pope Julius II. Pope Julius II first used the security force for his personal protection in 1506.
Urs Breitenmoser is a spokesman for the Swiss Guard. He told Reuters one the biggest improvements of the new helmets is that they will not heat up as much as the metal ones. This means the guards will sweat less, he said.
The new, lighter helmets should also provide relief for guard members wearing the helmets for long periods of time. Swiss news site Swissinfo.ch said the old helmets – which were made in Austria - weighed two kilograms. The new ones - made in Switzerland - weigh just 570 grams.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Reuters and online sources. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
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Words in This Story
helmet – n. a hard hat worn to protect the head
uniform – n. special set of clothes that worn by people to do a particular job or students attending school
symbol – n. a sign or object used to represent something
sweat – v. produce liquid through the skin when a person becomes hot or nervous