In touch with pope benedict and gorbachev

In touch with pope benedict and gorbachev

He is an original and actually not to be excluded from the cathedral. But at the age of 65, Hermann-Josef Muller's time has come to an end. But only in the sacristy. Organ services the prevented church musician wants to continue to take over.

'Everything has its two sides, but the positive ones clearly outweigh the negative'."Cathedral chaplain Hermann-Josef Muller is quite satisfied with his personal record after 38 years of service at the High Cathedral Church. After all, in these almost four decades of employment with the Metropolitan Chapter, he has experienced things that many others can only dream of. So many people go in and out of Cologne Cathedral – at peak times and without Corona, up to 20.000 a day – that it also never gets boring at this ecclesiastical workplace in the sacristy. Muller is constantly busy laying out vestments for the clergy, who come every hour in the morning to celebrate Mass. Or else he covers the altars in the side chapels up and down.

On Sundays and holidays, or at busy times such as Holy Week or Advent and Christmas, when he is also in demand as a manger, it is all the more important that everything is exactly as the lords clergy at the cathedral want it, so that the liturgy can be celebrated smoothly. But Mueller himself is also a perfectionist. In his own personal realm, he calls the shots. He can also become uncomfortable if someone messes up his schedule or if unannounced special requests torpedo his concept at the last moment.

Sexton service is in the family genetics

But just as quickly as a thunderstorm comes, it is also over again. Because in the deepest heart Muller is a man of spirit and in addition "a true Cologne man", who can also sometimes let his hair down, especially since he does not deny his typical Rhenish cheerful nature and ultimately draws breath of life from "his" cathedral and the whole surrounding area. "A little bit strangely" he finds it therefore already that all at once now with the working life at this unusual place is to be terminated. Although the 65-year-old does not officially leave until 31. He will retire in December, but until then he will be working overtime and taking residual leave – also for the current move from the center to Bilderstockchen. His last mass as sexton in charge was on this Sunday – with a special feature: To celebrate the day, he joined his colleague Judith Maurer and colleague Patrick Schroers in the procession at the pontifical mass with Auxiliary Bishop Steinhauser. Muller, who is considered a "Cologne original" by the cathedral chapter and all other cathedral employees, owes himself a dignified farewell.

His "career" within the Catholic Church, let alone at the cathedral, was not necessarily preordained for the trained foreign trade merchant, who worked for several years in a medium-sized company. In any case, Muller himself had not even begun to think of a job in Cologne's cathedral at first. However, if there is such a thing as a genetic disposition for a certain profession, then Muller has it. Already the grandfather was sexton – in St. Michael in the Belgian Quarter. His son took over from him, and when he also retired, Hermann-Josef Muller, who has known this church like the back of his hand since childhood, finally inherited his father's position. Even as a teenager, he had already been in St. Michael often took over the substitute service at the organ, even once dreamed of a church music education after school, and at the same time had quite naturally grown into the sexton duties, so that an offer to change to the largest church in Germany ultimately came not by chance.

Muller: Sexton is not a job, but a vocation

Anyone who has to deal with changing masters – Muller has experienced six cathedral provosts alone – must inevitably acquire a thick skin and learn not to put on every shoe right away when there is already stress in the sacristy. After all, everyone has their own personality, and Muller knows how to take the many different deacons, chaplains, prelates and bishops with whom he has to deal day in, day out, with their own idiosyncrasies. "Of course, if something doesn't run smoothly, it's the sexton's fault," he laughs, well aware that a lot of tolerance and a big heart are actually also part of his job description. And a good measure of loyalty. The longtime cathedral employee has never failed to do this with his direct or even indirect superiors, such as the highest dignitaries, the Cologne cardinals. Rather with healthy self-assertion his opinion represented, which also always applied something. "Everything starts from the altar. Sexton is therefore not a job, but a vocation," he says with conviction. "You have to live it – especially at a church like Cologne Cathedral."

And what remains of all the many years in this special service? Muller enthuses that he will never forget the cathedral jubilee in 1998 as one of the highlights of this time. "The many bishops and cardinals from all over the world and with Kohl and Gorbachev at close quarters – these are moments that remain forever."Or the visit of Pope Benedict in 2005 in the cathedral on the occasion of the World Youth Day. "Madness, what was going on here!"He has particularly fond memories of a snapshot, a brief one-on-one conversation, when the Holy Father turned to him once again before entering his Papa-mobile at the north portal. And when a pope speaks, of course all the others have to step back, so that all of a sudden I was standing there all alone with him, and this encounter must have had a very important effect on all the bystanders.". But I was able to reare Provost Feldhoff later," he adds with a funny wink, "it wasn't a poaching conversation."

New Year's Eve for the last time "Thick Pitter" ring

Muller can tell such anecdotes endlessly. He is also unique in this respect. At the end of his last Sunday service, the provost of the cathedral, Guido Assmann, confirmed this when he asked the outgoing sexton to join him at the ambo. "We are saying goodbye to an institution, and actually this is inconceivable to us," he stressed. "We still have to get used to the idea that you will be gone from now on," he turned warmly to Muller. The latter, he said, had marked the ministry of the cathedral chaplain in his 38 years of service. Assmann praised Muller's services and thanked him for his commitment, saying that he often worked diligently in the background long before and long after a service, taking care of many invisible details to ensure that the liturgical celebration was a success.

That's why he was also happy to grant his last wish. For as in all the years before, the future retiree will climb into the belfry half an hour before midnight on New Year's Eve and ring in the new year with the traditional "Dicken Pitter" at zero o'clock. With this last official act, an era comes to an end at the High Cathedral Church, and an old stalwart takes his leave.

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