Head of world's smallest army steps down

The commander of the Swiss Papal Guard at the Vatican has announced his resignation after nearly six years in office.

This content was published on March 6, 2008 minutes

Elmar Mäder said he was planning on continuing his career in Switzerland, but gave no further details.

Pope Benedict XVI will choose a successor to Mäder at a later date.

The Swiss Catholic Church said Mäder, whose mandate is due to run out in August, had done an excellent job overseeing the 500-year celebrations of the Guards in 2006.

The trained lawyer was one of the youngest commanders in the history of the Swiss Guard, which is often referred to as the world's smallest army.

The troop comprises up to 120 Swiss male citizens. Guards have to be aged 19 to 30, Catholic and at least 1.74m tall.

Ten years ago the Swiss Guard made headlines around the world when its commander and his wife were found shot dead, apparently murdered by a young corporal who later committed suicide.

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