Helsinki Faculty of Theology to confer honorary doctorate on Greta Thunberg

Helsinki Faculty of Theology to confer honorary doctorate on Greta Thunberg

During the summer, we invite you to find articles distributed this year on the site. Today an article originally published on 27/03/2023.

Greta Thunberg soon doctor honoris causa in theology, this is what announced the university of Helsinki, in Finland, which decided to confer this distinction on the young activist of 20 years, as well as various other personalities.

Already present in 2019 on the list of the prestigious journal Nature of the 10 people who counted in the year on the scientific level, Thunberg will receive the title of doctor Honorary in theology with seven other people, said the University of Helsinki on the occasion of the institution's jubilee which began last week, on March 20. The young Swede is one of 30 people who will be awarded in four disciplines, namely veterinary medicine, philosophy, theology and law. Among the recipients, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö who will be made an honorary doctor of philosophy on May 26. Thunberg is among nine individuals who will receive theology department insignia on June 9; the other eight are academics specializing in this field or in sociology, or leaders of Lutheran organizations. 

The Faculty of Theology presents Thunberg as “a Swedish opinion maker and activist” and mentions that “the school climate strike she organized outside the Swedish Parliament in the fall of 2018 quickly spread to the global Fridays for Future movement, in which schoolchildren urge policy makers to take climate action based on scientific evidence."

 According to the university, "his actions compelled us all to the task of bringing about change in our daily lives, as members of communities and societies, but above all as human beings."

Thunberg and the noisy theological and academic distinctions

This isn't the first time Thunberg has been the subject of a theology-related accolade. On December 1, 2018, the local parish of Limhamn, Sweden, posted a message on Twitter saying, "Announcement! Jesus of Nazareth has now appointed one of his successors, namely Greta Thunberg."

 The tweet had elicited enthusiastic comments such as "Now I am considering joining the Church" or "I am so happy to be in the Swedish Church! You are wonderful!", but also strong criticism such as "So speaks the apostate humanist Church."

The parish had suspended his account following the criticism.

Faced with criticism confusing the Church of Sweden, Lutheran, and the parish concerned, the first reacted on the following January 9 by publishing on its site an article entitled "No, the Church of Sweden has not proclaimed Greta Thunberg as one of the successors of Jesus Christ. "

A text in which the national Church recalls that the parishes are autonomous and "free to make their own decisions in most areas, including in the shaping of opinion."

According to her, the congregation concerned has a principle of "communicating with language adapted to Twitter, for example by using humor, irony and sometimes provocative formulations. All this in order to draw attention to the cause."

In its article, the Church of Sweden mentions the negative criticism of the bishop of the diocese of Lund, of which the congregation is a member, according to whom the parish should have expected that his message would be perceived as meaning that Thunberg was now the substitute of Christ:

"If you nominate someone to succeed you, you should expect that to be seen as a resignation."

Other criticisms had arisen, this time, in terms of academic credibility, when the University of Mons, in Belgium, awarded a doctorate Honorary in 2019 in Thunberg, then 16 years old. Several professors had accused the university of tilting the climate debate more on emotion than on scientific interest. The activist was also criticized in August of the same year for her "decarbonized" trip on a sailboat to New York, which had in reality needed six plane tickets for members of his team.

PhD Honorary is not a university degree and has only honorary value.

Jean Sarpedon

Image: Per Grunditz /

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