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Irja Askola is Finland's First Female Bishop

Irja Askola has been elected Bishop of Helsinki for the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This makes her Finland's first-ever female Lutheran bishop. In a YLE interview, she said she would practice "a dialogue with society".

Irja Askola
Helsingin uusi piispa Irja Askola Image: YLE

She graduated as a theologian in 1975 and was ordained in 1988. Askola now works as a special theological advisor to the Bishop of Espoo.

Askola has also served on the Ecumenical Council and in the Conference of European Churches, based in Geneva, from 1991 to 1999.

The current Bishop of Helsinki, Eero Huovinen, retires in the autumn. Askola takes up her new post on September 1 and will be ordained at Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral on September 12.

Askola's election is another sign of changing times in Finland's state-supported Lutheran Church. It follows on the path of similar ordinations in other European protestant churches. She is considered as a liberal and has supported, for example, the blessing of same-sex couples.

In an interview given to YLE, Askola said she would practice "a dialogue with society". She said the church must address such issues as current inequalities in society and racial intolerance. She also said she wants to welcome more same-sex couples for church blessings. However she added that no pastors would be required to do so.

Almost 80 percent of the Finnish population are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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