Latest email from my foster son on Archbishop Dimitri.
George, Taras, Fr. Ambrose, and a couple of other folks from Tulsa came down for the Unction Service last night. It was very moving to see hundreds of people. I could not find parking for 15 minutes. They wheeled Abp. Dmitri 30 minutes into the service. He was aware of his surroundings and would occasionally say something to the priests or the sub-deacons around him. He was also doing some of the blessings. It is a long service, so after they anointed him (he was in for about an hour), they wheeled him out. The last photo I sent you was taken as they were wheeling him out through the side entrance of the Cathedral. There is always someone with him 24/7. One of the parishners is a medical doctor and, there is also a nurse caregiver. Too bad I don’t have any of St. Pantheleimon’s oil for him to be anointed. Please ask Fr. Victor to pray for him. I know Abp. Dmitri is getting up in age, but I’d hate to see him go. He has been a fixture there for almost 60 years. The Diocese of the South is the most financially stable one in OCA, and during his tenure he founded close to 70 parishes. I don’t think there is another bishop in OCA that has come even close to accomplishing the missionary work of Abp. Dmitri. For a convert, he is deeply attached to the Slavic peoples and Slavic Orthodoxy. He has set a conservative tradition minded tone in all his parishes. I’ve never seen a hierarch so down to earth and so loved by his people. The hundreds of people, a good percentage of whom drove out of state to come and show their support for him, attest to that.
I remember, the first time I met him, after he found out I was from Bulgaria, he said “ you know Church Slavonic is Old Bulgarian, that’s where it came from.” Later, often when he’d see me in the Church hall, he’d turn to whoever was sitting next to him and repeat the same and then wink at me.
Five or six years ago, Martin (who was also from Bulgaria) and I commissioned an icon of St. John of Rila (based on a rare 14 century icon). When Martin went to Bulgaria he picked it up from the iconographer and brought it back. I asked Fr. John Anderson to bless and hang behind the Golgotha, but he gave me some excuse that there was no space etc. I saw Abp. Dmitri in the Church hall later that week, and told him about the icon. The following Sunday he made an announcement after the service that he was going to bless the icon and gave a small talk about St. John of Rila. It really made me feel good to see our Bulgarian (one could consider national) saint having an icon in a prominent place. After the blessing, as he was making his way out of the church, he pointed at the icon and gave me a wink. This goes to show you what kind of man he is. He hated confrontation but always found a way to get his point across. The converts love him, but the Russian love him even more. They’ve always been with him, taking care of the house, cooking for him etc. He is very familiar with Church Slavonic, and whenever he served, he’d always do a couple of the litanies in Slavonic. On Pascha he always read the Gospel in both languages.