November 28, 2011

Hours after the Vatican condemned an Italian ad campaign that depicted Pope Benedict kissing a Muslim leader, the Italian fashion house Benetton withdrew the photo.

The campaign is titled Unhate and features doctored images of supposedly antagonistic world leaders in kissing scenes.

The Vatican called offensive the image of Pope Benedict embracing Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, president of al-Azhar University in Cairo, who announced the suspension of dialogue with the Vatican earlier this year.

The ads were unveiled Nov. 16, and a few hours later the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, registered a strong protest.

He condemned what he called "a completely unacceptable use of the image of the Holy Father, manipulated and exploited in the context of a publicity campaign for commercial ends."

Lombardi said the image represented "a serious lack of respect for the pope, an offence to the sentiments of the faithful and a clear demonstration of how fundamental rules of respect for people can be violated by advertising, in order to attract attention through provocation."