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Catholic, Orthodox Churches: "Unfortunate" That Lutherans Elected a Woman Bishop

Finland’s Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches say it is unfortunate that Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church has elected a woman to serve as a bishop.

Image: YLE

Lutherans in Finland elected Irja Askola as Bishop of Helsinki earlier this month. She is to become the country's first-ever female bishop when she takes over the post in September.

The Finnish Catholic Church told the newspaper Kotimaa that selecting a woman to serve as a bishop puts even more distance between the two churches.

“We are sorry to see that a woman was picked to serve as a bishop. We have nothing personal against Irja Askola, but this decision breaks with tradition,” says Teemu Sippo, the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Catholic Church in Finland.

However, Sippo did not say he would refuse to work with Askola.

Orthodox Church Agrees

Finland's Greek Orthodox Church says it agrees with the Catholic view. Archbishop Leo told YLE on Thursday that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is "distancing itself from the international Christian church" with the decision.

"As a theological decision, it is a step away from efforts toward unity," he said.

The Lutheran and Orthodox churches are both state-supported. According to Statistics Finland, last year 79.9% of the population were registered as Lutheran, 1.1% as Orthodox and 1.3% as belonging to other churches. Nearly 18 percent had no religious affiliation.