07/06/2007 02:57 PM

Anti-Christian Bias?

The World's New Seven Wonders

Voting for the new seven wonders of the world ends on Friday night and the results will be announced on Saturday. But how wonderful will the wonders be? The Vatican suspects an anti-Christian bias.

One doubts whether the ancients went through quite as much effort to arrive at its list of the world's seven wonders. The monuments, from the Colossus of Rhodes to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, were all huddled around the Mediterranean Sea. And the list was compiled by a handful of scholars at the Museum of Alexandria.

This time around, things are being done a bit differently. On Saturday in Lisbon organizers of the "New 7 Wonders of the World" campaign will present the winners of contest that kicked off at the beginning of the decade -- a search that started with 200 nominations and has involved a team of researchers travelling around the world to narrow down the candidates. Fully 90 million people have cast their ballots for the final seven -- a number representing well over half of the entire world's population when the first list was compiled in 140 BC.

"It's so exciting," said Tia B. Viering, a campaign spokeswoman. "This is all about bringing people together, to appreciate each other … to celebrate diversity."

The Acropolis in Athens is among the top 10 as is the Eiffel Tower, the statues on Easter Island, the Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico, the Taj Mahal in India, Petra in Jordan and the Statue of Christ Redeemer towering over Rio de Janeiro. Other finalists include Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, the Statue of Liberty, the Kremlin, and Stonehenge. The rankings are continuing to fluctuate as voters around the world rush to have their say. The "New 7 Wonders" Web site has now taken down the rankings in the run-up to Saturday's announcement.

But even as people from every country in the world have had their say via text message and e-mail, not everyone is pleased with the contest. The first to voice concern was Egypt, home to the only one of the original wonders that still exists. Cairo was concerned that its pyramids had to compete to be on the new list despite its privileged place on the old. Organizers responded by placing the Pyramids of Giza above the competition, meaning the there will be eight wonders once the contest comes to an end.

The Vatican, though, also has its nose out of joint over the exclusion of Christian monuments like the Sistine Chapel and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, head of the Vatican's pontifical commission for culture and archaeology, told the Timesof London that the exclusions were "surprising, inexplicable, even suspicious."

The Italian daily La Repubblica reported on Thursday that Vatican officials suspected the organizers of the new seven wonders campaign of having an anti-Christian bias.

The campaign was started by Bernard Weber, a Swiss filmmaker, aviator and explorer, at the beginning of the decade. He and his team began a world tour last September to visit every one of the 21 finalists to generate publicity for the project. His foundation is non-profit and funds itself through donations and selling broadcasting rights.



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