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ROME – A former commander of the Swiss Guard, the 135-strong force in the Vatican charged with protecting the pope, has been reported missing from his job and residence in Switzerland, and his whereabouts are becoming a European mystery.
Daniel Anrig, 50, a former member of the Swiss Guard and a former police captain in Switzerland, had been appointed commander of the guard in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI. When his term expired in January 2015 it was not extended by Pope Francis, reportedly over concerns that Anrig had adopted an overly harsh and “militaristic” style of leadership.
At the time, a Vatican statement attempted to minimize those perceptions.
“There were neither errors nor sins on the part of the commander,” it said. “It’s only a matter of a his mandate being concluded. The decision was made by common agreement.”
In an interview after his departure was announced, Anrig defended his methods, saying that the corps “requires a severe style of leadership, and the guards understand this.”
On background, however, various members of the guard accused Anrig of “authoritarian” leadership, and there were also complaints about expenses to remodel his private apartment as the commander of the corps.
Prior to his Vatican appointment, Anrig had served as the chief of the criminal police in the Swiss canton of Glarus.
In 2003 he was responsible for a controversial raid on a home for asylum seekers, allegedly related to concerns over drug and human trafficking. Anrig ordered the asylum seekers to be undressed and tied up during the search, which eventually led to a court process for excessive use of force. Anrig was absolved of criminal liability, but ordered to reimburse the court costs.
After leaving the Swiss Guard, Anrig took a position with the airport police in Zurich from 2015 to 2020. For the past two years, Anrig has been serving as the municipal secretary, essentially a civil service position, in the Swiss hamlet of Zermatt, a famed mountaineering and ski resort in the Swiss Alps.
According to the mayor of Zermatt, Romy Biner-Hauser, his contract in that position had not been renewed and he was looking for another job, but was expected to remain in his position through Dec. 31.
According to local reports, however, Anrig has not been seen or heard from for the past several days. Phone calls to his mobile number have gone unanswered, as have emails and attempts to reach him through texts and messaging platforms. Police from the canton of Valais, where Zermatt is located, conducted a search of Anrig’s home, but there was no sign of him.
Some media outlets in Switzerland have suggested that perhaps Anrig simply took off prior to the expiration of his contract because he was upset that his job wasn’t renewed. Others, however, are speculating that Anrig may have been facing either criminal or civil charges outside the canton of Valais, although there’s been no confirmation of that theory.
The Vatican has had no comment on Anrig’s disappearance, though speaking on background, members of the Swiss Guard have told Italian media outlets they’re “surprised” by the reports. Anrig is married and has four children.