Antje Jackelén becomes Sweden's first female archbishop after historic Church election

2:24 min

Controversial bishop, Antje Jackelén, has won Tuesday’s archbishop election in Sweden after receiving 56 per cent of the vote.

"It feels good, I think. I am slightly overwhelmed, happy, grateful. I'm proud of the Church, which has managed to unify so forcefully around a single candidate already in the first voting round," Jackelén told news agency TT.

Jackelén, a bishop in Lund in southern Sweden, has been criticised for being unclear in her responses to questions regarding faith, though she sees herself as deeply Christian.

"I have nothing against being clear," Jackelén told Swedish Radio on Tuesday.

"On the contrary, I want to be clear, perceptive and empathic, but I do have something against the kind of clarity that in reality is just a pretense. When you try to water down complex issues to yes- or no-statements you easily create a debate that just polarises people," said Jackelén.

Jackelén said she sees no contradiction in believing both in God and in evolution, for instance. She has also told Christian newspaper, Dagen, that the virgin birth is a "mythological term to explain the unique. Those who interpret the virgin birth as a biological issue have completely missed the point."

Candidates in today’s archbishop election needed more than half of the votes in order to win.

Jackelén's primary competitor was Ragnar Persenius, who received 29 percent of the nomination votes in September. He is the assistant bishop of Uppsala.

The other candidates were chief theologian Christina Grenholm, dean Johan Dalman from Strängnäs and Gothenburg bishop Per Eckerdal.

Sweden's current archbishop, Anders Wejryd, is due to retire in the summer of 2014. He was the first bishop to be elected by the Church of Sweden. Before church and state were separated in Sweden in 2000, the government appointed all bishops.

Jackelén takes up the post in eight months but has already made history, though she herself apparently does not make a big deal out of her gender.

"I have been a woman all my life, so I carry that with me in everything I do," she told TT.

"But of course it is great. I have moved so much in international contexts where I have noted that many are curious about female church leaders. So I am aware that it is also an asset," said Jackelén.