The Thyateira Confession (1975): Partaking of the Holy Communion
His Eminence Archbishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis was born on the island of Patmos as Theodore Kokkinakis. He graduated from the Theological School of Halki in 1934. He studied at the General Theological Seminary, Columbia University, and Northwestern University. Theodore was ordained to the priesthood in 1940 and was assigned to the church of St. Andrew in Chicago, later serving also at the church of St. Demetrios in Astoria, New York. He acted as editor of the Orthodox Observer, the archdiocesan magazine. In 1950 Fr. Athenagoras was elected bishop of Eleia. Initially, Bishop Athenagoras was assigned to oversee the western portion of the United States. In 1954, he was transferred to Boston and the oversight of New England. At the same time he was appointed dean of Holy Cross Seminary. He resigned as dean in 1959. The next year, he was elevated to the degree of Metropolitan of Eleia and assigned to oversee parishes in Canada.
On December 10, 1963, Metropolitan Athenagoras was elected by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Metropolitan of Thyateira and Great Britain, which at the time had oversight of all churches of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Western Europe. On February 24, 1968, the see was elevated to the rank of archdiocese, and Metropolitan Athenagoras accordingly became Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain. At the same time, the establishment of new dioceses in Western Europe meant that the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain was redefined to encompass only the British Isles and Malta.
Archbishop Athenagoras was a leading figure in the ecumenical movement. As a bishop of the Archdiocese of North and South America, he participated in the North American Faith and Order Study Conference in Oberlin, Ohio and delivered a key address on behalf of the Orthodox delegates. He was president of the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Conference in Belgrade in 1967. He represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate at conferences organized under the auspices of the World Council of Churches.
Archbishop Athenagoras died on September 9, 1979.
In his bilingual The Thyateira Confession, published in 1975 by The Faith Press, with the blessing and authorisation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, His Eminence Archbishop Athenagoras had this to say about the possibility for the Orthodox and Roman Catholic faithful to receive Holy Communion in each other’s churches:
“When they are not near a Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholics are permitted to receive the Holy Communion in Orthodox Churches; and the same is also extended to Orthodox when they are not near an Orthodox Church.” (p. 69)
The Greek version is as follows: “Επιτρέπεται εξ απόψεως Ρωμαιοκαθολικής να μεταλαμβάνουν εν καιρώ ανάγκης οι Ρωμαιοκαθολικοί εις Ορθοδόξους Εκκλησίας και οι Ορθόδοξοι εν καιρώ ανάγκης να μεταλαμβάνουν εις Ρωμαιοκαθολικάς Εκκλησίας.” (σελ. 209)