Vladika Dmitri: A Witness’s Testimony
Vladimir Grigorenko is the iconographer at St. Seraphim Orthodox cathedral in Dallas. He was also a faithful friend and servant to the late Archbishop Dmitri (Robert Royster) of Dallas, who died in 2011. Vladimir is also my godfather and friend, and there is no one in the world I trust more than I trust him. He was present for the five days between Dmitri’s 2011 death and burial, and he was present for Dmitri’s exhumation this past Friday. Here, from his Facebook page, is Vladimir’s testimony. All the photos accompanying this post are his own. Because some of these images may be disturbing to some readers, I have put most of them below the jump. Please take a look if you like. By the way, “Vladika” is an informal title that Orthodox Christians in the Slavic tradition use for their bishop:
Yesterday we put Archbishop Dmitri in his final resting place in St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas.
I was blessed to be a part of a team, which uncovers Vladika’s earthly remains and transfers them into new coffin to be buried in the crypt of the Resurrection Chapel and probably should offer some comments about these events.
It was Archbishop Dmitri wish and our deep desire that he would be buried on the premises of St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. We started to plan that next morning after his departure in August 2011.
Unfortunately, we had not enough time to satisfy all requirements of the City Code, which is why Parish decided to bury our beloved Pastor at the Restland Cemetery, on the spot own by the Cathedral. The idea was that we would bring his earthly remains to Cathedral as soon as proper burial place will be build.
Due to lack of space under Cathedral foundation, we have to build Memorial chapel adjusted to the Cathedral with underground Burial Chamber in it. This building process, together with filing all necessary paperwork and receiving all permits, took us little over four years. We scheduled Vladika’s re-internment on closest date available.
In accordance with Federal law as it had been presented to us by Restland Cemetery Funeral Director, in order to be moved to the new place, the body of diseased person has to be transferred to the new sealed coffin by Cemetery employees, who will deliver the body on the Church site.
I personally negotiated with Funeral Director that Church representatives must be allowed to oversee this transition. I have to admit, during this negotiation Funeral Director (with 25 years of experience) explained to us in details what horrific picture we will see if we will choose to be present.
Several people, Clergy and Laity from different parishes thorough the diocese, including me, was chosen to participate. Dr. Ron Rodriguez, MD, Vladika’s primary physician, was one of them.
In the early morning of March 4, when Restland employees opened the concrete vault that contained Vladika’s wooden coffin, I was ready to see all these horrible things I was told about.
To our amazement, Vladika’s coffin was found intact amidst wet atmosphere of sealed vault and was easily opened.
Funeral Director who was present there in complete haz-mat mask, stated that she never saw non-embalmed body in such condition after 5 years in the grave, and that she believe that this is a miracle.
From this moment on, Restland employees stepped aside and allowed us to do everything we need.
Vladika’s body was found incorrupt and covered with several layers of soaking wet vestments. I will not go into much detail here – you can see a lot from few pictures attached.
His skin was dry but covered with condensed water, Pectoral cross and the Panagia are tarnished, and enamel images are peeling off and destroyed by harsh conditions.
Since we were obliged to transfer Archbishop to a new coffin and condition of his body allowed that, it was decided on the spot to remove old vestments and cover him with a new set. It was done with great reverence, and no damage to the body was done. [Note from Rod: A friend who was present at this rite said that Dmitri’s body, after four and a half years in the tomb, was completely flexible. — RD]
Vladika Dmitri new coffin was then sealed and transferred to St. Seraphim Cathedral, where memorial service was served by OCA metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop Alejo of Mexico, with over 20 priests and few hundreds of lay people from all around of USA and Mexico.
Next day, after Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Dmitri relics were placed for eternal rest in closed underground chamber in Resurrection Chapel of St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas.
Few personal notes:
Obviously, I was glad to see Vladika’s body incorrupt, but be it otherwise, it would not affect my opinion about his sanctity at all.
The body of St Seraphim of Sarov, the Patron of our Cathedral, was corrupted, but it does not change the fact that he is one of the most beloved Saints around the world.
We all know that incorrupt body alone is not the reason of glorification.
Knowing Vladika for 11 years, seeing fruits of his life in the Lord, I personally convinced that he is a Saint. I believe that there are many more people all over the country, who share that conviction.
There is no decision of any group of people, respected (or not) would be able to change that. If his body will be corrupted in two, 20 or 200 years (as some may wish), or will start to stream myrrh (as others may desire) it will not be changed.
No one can stop me or anyone else from addressing Vladika Dmitri in prayer, and feel his response and intercession; same way as many others all around US feel his love and help.
All pictures I made during transfer of Archbishop Dmitri body will be forwarded to proper Church authorities together with my written statement for consideration.
He’s right: this “proves” nothing. But it is a wondrous sight to see. Photos of his his incorrupt hands below the jump: