Finnish Lutheran Church elects first female bishop

Helsinki, Finland - Irja Askola was Thursday elected the first female bishop of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Askola, 57, defeated her male opponent, Matti Poutiainen, in a run-off. Preliminary tallies showed that Askola secured 591 electoral votes, while Poutiainen garnered 567 electoral votes.

A total of five candidates had been entered in the first round last month.

In all, 1,247 electoral college members - or 93 per cent - voted.

Askola is to be ordained as bishop of Helsinki in September.

She was first ordained as a pastor in 1988. From 1991 to 1999, she worked at the Conference of European Churches, an ecumenical fellowship of churches formed in 1959.

Some 4.3 million people - over 80 per cent of Finland's population - are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.