Vatican pledges legal action against Benetton over doctored pope-kissing-imam ad
Benetton’s pope-imam ‘kiss” ad in Rome on Thursday.
November 17th, 2011
03:05 PM ET

Vatican pledges legal action against Benetton over doctored pope-kissing-imam ad

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The Vatican will attempt legal action against the United Colors of Benetton over an ad featuring a doctored picture of the pope kissing a male Muslim cleric, the Holy See announced Thursday, one day after the ad was unveiled and then pulled.

The Vatican said it had directed its lawyers to initiate action to prevent the circulation of the ad, even though Benetton announced Wednesday that it is pulling the ad in the face of criticism.

The ad featured a fake picture of Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, imam of Al-Azhar mosque, a prominent Muslim house of worship in Cairo, Egypt.

"It is a serious lack of respect for the Pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful and an evident demonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can be broken in order to attract attention by provocation,” Holy See spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement about the ad.

“The Secretariat of State is examining the steps that may be taken with the competent authorities in order to guarantee adequate protection for the figure of the Holy Father," Lombardi said, referring to the Vatican’s secretary of state.

A person who answered the phone for Benetton’s press line on Thursday said no one from the company would be available to comment on the Vatican announcement until Friday.

"We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms," Benetton said in a statement on Wednesday, explaining its decision to pull the ad.

"We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the pope and the imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful,” the statement by the fashion apparel company continued. “In corroboration of our intentions, we have decided, with immediate effect, to withdraw this image from every publication."

The ad was part of a campaign United Colors of Benetton unveiled Wednesday that features doctored photos of world leaders kissing each other and that the Italian-based company said aims to combat a “culture of hatred.”

The series features fake photos of U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jintao and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, among other pairings.

The ads are appearing in print and online media around the world.

“The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders,” Benetton said in a Wednesday press release.

“These are symbolic images of reconciliation - with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation - to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation.”

Benetton says the ad campaign accompanies the creation of a new organization called the UNHATE foundation.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Islam

soundoff (402 Responses)
  1. lilswede

    Both aricles I read today on Cnn The first, 4myths about the Book of Revallation and this One On the POPe are truly a disgrace, disgusting and was a waste of My time and energy,,if people do not see something very very evil happening in this world with constant insults to Jesus, and his Believers,Then your ALL Blind,,,,,We are INdeed IN alot of trouble Globally,,WAKE_ UP!

    April 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  2. American Heathen

    Nobody cares about arguments among psychotic wizards.

    April 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  3. Italiana

    We should all boycott Benetton...this is offensive to all in these ads whether Catholic, Muslim, president or just any other leader...but Benetton chose two leaders of two faiths which both condemn the gay lifestyle...as somebody else said why did they not choose two atheists and show them kissing each other passionately...? Because the atheists have no faith no God and no laws of God to obey.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  4. Fisting your brother

    How about a pic of the Pope suckin my D!CK.

    November 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • cannaon

      screw you god exists and if you dont belive go fornificate yourself with an iron rod.

      December 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  5. Gladis

    This isn't about a message of love or "unhate". It's not about the Catholic church either. It's all about the publicity and, bravo, they succeeded because we are all reading and writing about it.

    November 20, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • cannaon

      Sir, your point is

      December 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  6. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    It's funny because a clothing brand understands love better than the Catholic Church.

    November 20, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Italiana

      No, Benetton does NOT understand better than others...the only ones kissing are men, they are forwarding their own ideology by using world leaders as kissing and men do not kiss on the lips which is very disrespectful but on the cheek...yet Benetton purposely made them kiss like a man and a woman on the lips as if in passion. Benetton liies with their statement as to the reason for the ad, they wanted to promote the gay lifestyle and never peace...

      November 26, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  7. dr bip

    Dear Lord, I really hope you're coming cuz ya really started something......

    November 20, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  8. Ann

    It's disrespectful but then again what do we expect from a company who sells overpriced clothes that were made in sweatshops and a couple years back thought it would be a good idea to use death row inmates as models to sell their jeans with no thought to how that would affect the victims families. United Colors of Benetton, thanks for reinforcing the decision I made years ago, not to buy your overpriced, cheaply made garbage.

    November 19, 2011 at 2:32 pm |

    HEY! You are all missing the point. We all know that a Muslim is a LITTLE BOY at heart.

    November 19, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Mirosal

      you're right lol ... if he were a little girl, he'd have no rights to an education, wouldn't be able to walk outside alone, would have to cover up like Nanook of the North, might, MIGHT mind you, have to undergo female circu.mcision ... yea ... good thing he's a real man's man dictating who has rights under that faith. And your boy the Pope.. yea the one in the funny hat who wants to revert society back to the year 1100 ... remember he did swear a personal oath to some German guy with a little moustache about 70 years ago .. think he still abides by that oath?

      November 19, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  10. rationalendeavour

    hey everyone, Monday is "Photoshop the Pope" day!

    November 19, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  11. chief

    he didnt like being porteyed as gay when he is really a ped

    November 18, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • rationalendeavour

      took forty years to acknowledge the abuse of children, but the "legal action" happens at the speed of light when it's their important leader-guy, and the violation is only in effigy. We see priorities in action, here.

      November 19, 2011 at 2:34 am |
  12. catholic engineer

    I propose a photo with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins in a lip lock. How else would these two emotionally charged men express their feelings?

    November 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Bob

      catholic sh!tflow engineer,

      They both express their opinions and their emotions very eloquently in their writings. And defend those opinions well with good arguments supported with evidence. As usual, you are just trying to make a point, when you have none to make. In fact, as usual, you are full of sh!t.

      November 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Slowpoke152

      As an atheist, I would laugh at that. Someone please make that.

      November 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Bimston

      That's intellectually inconsistent. These pictures show people who supposedly have enmity toward each other kissing. How about Dawkins and WIlliam Lane Craig. I think that would fit nicely.

      November 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm |

      Hey catholic engineer, where did u get your degree? i need to know so i won't apply to that uni.

      November 19, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  13. Gort01


    November 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    This morning I have heard a radio broadcast of Deutschlandfunk (DLF, a German radio station). There was an account that the current pope wants to create a new sacrament (a special sacrament of forgiveness for Africa). DLF may have misinterpreted the informations, which they got by the Vatican. But if the message is true, then there is a new proof for the anti-Christian presumption of the pope.

    The only one, who is allowed to insti-tute sacraments, is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He insti-tuted the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Both sacraments are supernatural by their divine insti-tution. The visible acts of both sacraments are actually ridiculous (for example a dressed person is bathed). However, it was Christ's intention to make the visible part of the sacrament as simple as possible. The sacraments become precious, when they are grasped by faith. The sacrament becomes precious for me, when I believe God's word, which He has connected with the visible acts, which are actually ridicolous in themselves. However, according to Christ's doctrine by Water and Spirit we get born from above. Baptism is like a mystical fountain of life-giving Water. That is the mystery of Holy Baptism. Baptism is a divine ceremony, at which I die and resurrect together with Jesus. My old man of sin has died and I got a new life in Jesus.

    The sacraments are the only legal or lawful and holy supernatural acts on earth . All other supernatural acts are strictly prohibited and called wizardry.

    Sacraments are supernatural processes. The supernatural power of the sacraments is attached by God himself. It is clear that no mere stupid human being can attach supernatural power to an actually ridiculous act like bathing a dressed man.

    Conclusion: When the pope presumes he could create another sacrament, he behaves like God. This is another proof for the abomination of papacy.

    Let us abolish papacy and Islam and the mankind will become happy. Of course, the demons, which empower papacy and Islam can solely overcome by divine power. God will help only the people, which believe in Him. Thus, the mankind needs faith. Will Jesus find faith on earth, when he returns?

    November 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Mel

      This is painfully silly misinformation, there are only 7 sacraments possible, that's it, you are raving

      November 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • steve oberski

      And the 7 sacraments your invisible sky buddy told you about isn't misinformation ?

      November 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • rationalendeavour

      your religion is fake. there are no actual rules about "sacraments", and none of this matters.

      this is like nerds arguing hotly about whether it'll take a 1-D20 roll or a D6 to Magic Missile that orc.

      Go outside, dude. There's a real world out there.

      November 19, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Mirosal

      hmmmm.. let's see now ... "The sacraments are the only legal or lawful and holy supernatural acts on earth . All other supernatural acts are strictly prohibited and called wizardry. Sacraments are supernatural processes". Who legalizes them on Earth? If I perform a supernatural act, after I collect my $1 million from the JREF, who will come arrest me and put me on trial? Who enforces the laws here on Earth regarding supernatural activity? Men in Black? Men at Work? Men Without Hats? Two and a Half Men? C'mon you thumpers, tell me, who regulates this stuff? Oh, and while you're at it, please tell me one.. JUST ONE supernatural act that was verified as supernatural, and do it without using your unverifiable book of moldy oldies. Nnot "supposed" .. but real and scientifically verified as being of the supernatural realm or plane. As far as your 'sacraments' are concerened , I've had 5 of the 7, and they did nothing for me except appease my family.

      November 19, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • dr bip

      Only men would invent a religion where all the gods are male. Kinda obvious, don't you think? Oh wait, you are one of the men who believes it all. Well maybe if I were a man I would believe in Christianity too because it would flatter my pride. Look at me, I am a man, and god is a man too, and his son was man, and only men are god. Good work if you can get it.

      November 20, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  15. derp

    Pictures of the pope kissing an Imam are bad, but priests buttraping little boys is ok.

    Yay catholics.

    November 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  16. Charles Cosimano

    A perfect example of outlaw marketing. No one would have noticed if the Vatican had not become upset so Benetton comes out on top.

    November 18, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  17. Awkward Situations

    Buy! Sale! Sale!

    "Unhate" on sale for a short time only! Buy now! Come visit our stores in person or go online to redeem your FREE "unhate" coupon! Don't wait! Act now! Limited time only! (coupon code: unhate)

    Next month's special : Ungenocide and Un-underwear!

    Why do any actual work against hate when you can buy a chic winter unhate-scarf and show your support! Unhate for sale!

    November 18, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Stable Ground

      Why put it on sale? Your momma panicly bought it for you coz she knows that you need a whole lot of it, that you will not shoot (point blank) anybody you meet along the road. Pls. keep it, don't put it on-sale, you need it the most. Pls. for the sake the neighborhood's safety.

      November 19, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  18. uos_spo6

    You'd think they would be content to just condemn the man to Hell.

    Follow your own doctrine's mantra and turn the other cheek Benedict before your religion fades in to the annals of history.

    November 18, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  19. Rainer Braendlein

    The above photo may be a little indecent, but it expresses a spiritual truth.

    I have read a big part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was drafted by the current pope and approved by John Paul II. In this lousy book you can read that the pope acknowledges Islam as a lawful religion. That is a heavy spiritual crime. The Lord has commanded to condemn heresies like Islam and not to greet the heretics. Islam is not only an ordinary heresy, but the most dangerous heresy of all ages. It belongs to the core tenets of the genuine Islam to destroy the Christian Church. The core tenet of Islam is: "Don't ascribe partners to Allah!" But that is, what the Christians do. We ascribe a partner to God: Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and a person of the holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    Former Christians have called the pope the Western Antichrist and Muhammad the Eastern Antichrist. Their statements were true. The two Antichrists support each other by their lies.

    The truth: Islam can save nobody or cannot save anybody. Islam is no divine religion, but a demonic supersti-tion, which promotes the carnal desires of man, instead of damping them. Islam denies the only Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is the only one, who is able to deliver us from our sins. Islam degrades Jesus to a mere spiritual teacher or Islamic leader (!) (Imam), but in fact he is God himself. Godhead and mankind are perfectly united in Jesus Christ, thus he is able to help us, because he knows, what we feel.

    November 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Walter Christian

      Right on Rainier,The pope is the devil`s advocate here on earth,head of the mafia,head of the society of jesus which is the pope`s assination squad,head of the muslim terrorists,head of the luninati that aspires to control the world with the use of the mark of the beast et al.He is the devil`s representative ruling the richest country of the world,who is responsible for stealing the money from the treasury of the italian and european countries which now leave those countries penniless and at the mercy of the beast.etc.This would take too much time to explain in detail here of the evils of the pope and his duty to satan.OK?Just to make you think more on this topic.

      November 18, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • rationalendeavour

      you stay up all night reading technical articles on variant Monopoly rules, don't you?

      November 19, 2011 at 2:39 am |
  20. Kiss me you fool.

    Love Benneton; wish i could afford to shop there. The ad is hilarious and i don't see what the big deal is; everyone loves a little smoochie! smoochie!

    November 18, 2011 at 10:27 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.