The Sts Peter and Paul Association was founded by Blessed Paul VI in 1971, following the decision he took in the previous year to disband the Palatine Honour Guard. The Association was set up to enable former Guards continue their voluntary service to the Holy See and to preserve the legacy of their ideals.
Its members are Catholics resident in Rome who undertake to give “a particular witness of Christian life, apostolate and fidelity to the Apostolic See” (Statute, art.1) through cultural and charitable activities, as well as through various services (hospitality, stewarding, etc.) in St Peter’s Basilica and during the Papal liturgical celebrations in the Vatican or in Rome.
The Association’s motto
“Fide constamus avita”: “Let us firmly persevere in keeping with the fidelity of our fathers”
inherited from the Palatine Guard, expresses our resolve to remain united in fidelity to the Pope, dedicating ourselves to his service, in keeping with the noble example of those who preceded us.
The Palatine Guard was established by Blessed Pope Pius IX on 14 December 1850, when he joined the pre-existing corps of the Urban Militia and the Special Company of the Civic Guard. These had remained loyal to the Pope during the revolutionary upheavals of 1848-49 and the Pope’s exile to Gaeta. The new Guard was “assigned to serve the Sacred Person of His Holiness” (article 1 of the regulation). Many changes took place in the Palatine Guard during its 120 year history. In the years immediately preceding its dissolution, guards in plain clothes joined those in uniform at Papal ceremonies. The final transformation from a military body to a purely civil one was achieved with the establishment of the Sts Peter and Paul Association.
The Association is located in the Vatican Apostolic Palace where the Palatine Guard was once housed; the entrance is situated in the St Damasus Courtyard.
The Chapel, located in the Association’s headquarters, was memorably described by St John Paul II as the “heart of the Association”. It dates back to the early post-war years. The then Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Mgr Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Paul VI, and the Chaplain of the Palatine Guard, Mgr Amleto Tondini, devoted much effort to completing the Chapel. The altar of the new Chapel was consecrated on 15 June 1947 by Bishop Alfonso de Romanis, Sacristan of His Holiness and Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City State. In 1951 the architect Vittorio Trainini was commissioned to decorate the apse with some scenes from the life of St Peter, to whom the Chapel is dedicated. Following restoration work during the summer of 2014, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, dedicated the new altar on 12 October 2014.
The Sts Peter and Paul Association is dependent on and answers to the Secretariat of State. It is headed by its President. It also has a Vice-President, General Secretary, Treasurer and the Directors of the three Sections of the Association (Liturgical, Cultural, Charitable). These are members of the Presidential Council, as are the Spiritual Assistants, who are appointed by the Secretariat of State, and the President of the Assembly, who represents the members and is elected annually at the General Assembly.