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Sweden elects first female archbishop

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Sweden elects first female archbishop
15:43 CEST+02:00
Bishop Antje Jackelén became the first ever female archbishop of the Church of Sweden on Tuesday, despite her controversial statements in the past about believing in God and evolution.

German-born Jackelén, a 58-year-old mother of two, is presently a bishop in Lund in southern Sweden and told reporters the time is right for a woman to have the job.

"We've had female priests for 50 years," she said.

"The first thing that comes to me is what a great church we have that can agree on a candidate. It feels good, I think. A little dazed, happy, grateful," said the mother of two.

Jackelén was the clear winner of the election notching up 55.9 percent of the vote. She bagged 174 votes, with nearest rival, Bishop Ragnar Persenius of Uppsala, claiming 103.

When asked how she felt about becoming the first woman to take the post, Jackelén said it was "not so surprising".

"I've been out on the international scene a lot and I can see there is a curiosity about female church leaders. I have confidence that it is also an asset," she told the TT news agency.

It was a sentiment backed up by outgoing archbishop Anders Wejryd who said "it was about time" a woman took the post.

"We already have female leading bishops in Norway, USA and Germany," said Wejryd who will remain in office until next summer.

Jackelén has courted controversy in the past for being unclear on her views on faith and saying there is no contradiction in believing in God as well as evolution.

She suggested that the virgin birth was a metaphor rather than an actual event, which is understood to have angered some in the Swedish clergy. Jackelén said she was unaware if her comments have caused a split.

She was ordained a priest in the Church of Sweden in 1980 and has spent most of her working life in the country. Jackelén returned to Lund in 2006 to become bishop and has become one of the first people in her role to be active on social media. Her Twitter account has almost 3,000 followers.

"Many thanks for all your joyous acclamation. I'm in a daze,delighted and thankful for all the great support," she posted on the micro-blogging site following her win.

Jackelén is the second archbishop after Anders Wejryd to be elected by the Church of Sweden. The government used to appoint all bishops but that was scrapped after the separation of church and state back in 2000.

TT/The Local/pr

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