A Danish Lutheran priest who attracted international attention by proclaiming that there is no God or afterlife, but retracted after being suspended, has died. He was 72.
The Rev. Thorkild Grosboell died Sunday and had been suffering from cancer, his daughter Mette Kathrine Grosboell told The Associated Press.
“He was a great man. He should be remembered for that,” she said Monday.
The Priest, Grosboell, was suspended by his bishop after a May 2003 newspaper interview about a book he had written on faith, in which he told the interviewer: “There is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection.”
Helsingoer bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel, whose diocese included Taarbaek, a small town north of Copenhagen where Grosboell was the pastor, handed his case to the government requesting that it take the necessary steps to dismiss him.
In Denmark, Lutheran ministers are employed by the state and only the government can fire them after a recommendation from their supervising bishop.
The pipe-smoking Grosboell, known for his provocative comments, eventually retracted his statement, apologized and his suspension was lifted.
Grosboell was later suspended once more, for ignoring church orders not to repeat the beliefs about which he had made the retraction, from the pulpit. The second time, Rebel said he had made “provocative remarks” and had spoken in “a strongly provocative, hurting, and confusing way.”
In 2005, he was finally allowed to return to his parish, and stayed there until he retired in 2008, the newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad said.
In December 2018, he called himself “a Christian atheist.”
More than 80% of Denmark’s population belongs to the State Evangelical Lutheran Church, though only about 5% attend church services regularly.