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. J.W

    I'm surprised no one has said that this is an obviously atheist organization that is just trying to cause jihad between Muslims and Christians.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yes, it is. And very biased, which tries to appear all liberal, but is grubbily reactionary

      November 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  2. Ken

    They're offended by that? And that's only the first picture in the series. I wonder if the pope is a pitcher or a catcher.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I think the pointy hat might be a clue

      November 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • pantycrickett

      lol, I would have went with dress.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  3. Jez

    It was amusing. Everybody take a chill-pill.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  4. William Demuth

    I am so pleased with the ads.

    It shows you the protection the church use to have has deserted her.

    The RCC is in a downward spiral, and all the other cults are lining up for the flotsam left after she sinks under for the final time.

    Should be a goof to watch the Zombies rationalize their actions as they abandon her.

    Hell, the Pope is paranid to even travel. Sooner or later he gets whacked or locked up for complicity in child buggery

    November 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • William Demuth

      They said Jesus was on a downward spiral once. Then what happened? Then the Romans spent 300 years trying to wipe his followers out. The Church was meant to be on a downward spiral. Then what happened? Science was said to finish it off. Then what happened? Then the Nazis and Communists between them did their best to wipe out the Church and that we thought it was on a downward spiral. Then what happened? How come it survives?

      November 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      typical zyo nist cnn juuws h8 the pope and imam so we see that all over the web but do we see the image of abbas and netanyahu kissing. No we don't. You have to search google for that.


      November 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Again my ignorant son.

      Jesus coming to power in Rome destroyed society for 500 years, and resulted in attrocities and abominations the world had never seen.

      It was a spiral backwards, and it created a culture that poisons our world to this day.

      You reference the Nazi's, yet your leader was one as a child. In fact the Nazi's were almost all Christian, and the Vatican itself was in an Axis state. Christians used their hated and intolerance to kill 40 million people.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Besides fake me, your childish use of my or Docs names, (and the others) is just an indication of your emotional immaturity.

      Grow up before you try to speak for God, or to anyone else.

      If you are so ashamed of who you are, why shouldn't we also be ashamed of you?

      November 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      My misguided father, don't mind him, he's getting doddery. Was he a Nazi or was it simply all were registered and he had to? What did you expect him to line up to get shot at age 14. Don't be dumb! You would have done the same. His dad was forced to move because he disagreed with the Nazis and there is nothing in anything he has ever done to suggest he was sympathetic – in fact, he has been a lifelong opponent of Nazism.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Isn't horrible to use someone else's image or name, eh WD? That's the point!

      November 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Fake William Demuth

      He threw the Jews under the bus, and was indoctrinated in bigotry, which he continues today

      He might as well have gassed them himself. He will be held accountable!

      November 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The only thing fake is your FAKE a-history. You have never bothered to find out the truth. Repeating lies only compounds how much a bigot you are. Get sources, do research. He promoted tolerance for other religions all through his life... Nazis don't do that. Read any of his books and you will see that. Saying its so, doesn't make it so. Face the truth and stop hiding behind a computer!

      November 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  5. Scottish Slewth


    November 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • phil

      Isnt the imam too old for him. Were the alter boys off that day.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      netanyahoo was slipping abbas the tongue...

      November 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  6. acterrier

    I am not one of the "faithful" but I found the images disturbing. It was beyond bad taste. I won't be shoppoing at Benneton (and I was a fan).

    November 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  7. William Demuth

    Christians are so intolerant, but im not.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Sometimes I stop and think, "what would Richard Dawkins do"?

      November 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Please ignore my retarted son.

      His mother was a Christian tramp, a nun I believe, but I was drunk at the time.

      I wanted to abort, but because she had been with so many, I could not prove fathership.

      Alas he still uses my name.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Just so you know, I'm not going to hook up with you, we're not going to sleep together, I'm married, I've got two kids, so...just telling you.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • cj

      I'm usually for everyones own freedoms and responsibility. But you just can't use the likeness of someone else without their permission. It violates the freedoms and respect of those two beings

      November 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • J.W

      This kind of thing is not really unusual. It happens to celebrities all the time.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      jews are racist and intolerant

      November 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  8. hasan

    So this is now being called an outrage and a disrespect. Where were you when the Prophet was being made fun of in worse ways in the name of "Freedom" of expression? The show is on the other foot eh?

    November 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I was the one mocking the liar who calls himself a prophet.

      Frankly I think crucifiction is QUITE appropriate for any liar of that magnitude.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • phoodphite

      what show about what foot?

      November 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins.

      There were actually many Christians who stood up and said that was offensive, and nobdy should be making obscene gestures towards something people hold sacred.

      We Christians might not believe in Muhammed, but we don't want to outright disrespect you all. We want to be your friends and share the love of Jesus with you. It's by and large the atheists that promote provocative cartoons, etc.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • BuckedWheat

      Yes, the show is on the other foot.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • J.W

      OH you must be a different Richard Dawkins.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • William Demuth


      The altar boys have told us how you share the love of Jesus.

      Thanks, but no thanks.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • hasan

      Am I allowed to make a one character typo here? SHOE. Happy now? 🙂

      November 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  9. Marc

    Who would Jesus sue?

    November 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  10. Steven Carr

    The irony is not lost on me.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  11. BobZemko

    The covered up abuse in his parish in Munster and yet is outraged by this? No wonder I left the church.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • phoodphite

      Was that back before the holy bee alien cross-pollenation when he was just Senator Palpatine?

      November 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  12. Rod

    This add, and many of the post are just more Anti Catholic bigotry by ignorant ethically challenged people raised by low class parents. Vast majority of people who abuse children work in occupations like, Teachers, Social workers, Coaches...

    November 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      it's the joos..

      November 17, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  13. hippypoet

    i wonder if after his photo ...does the pope still use his soap on a rope , or has he switched to his new cross bar soap – to wash off the g@y. people are sooo dumb its sickening.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins.

      I agree, the people who post on these boards are overwhelmingly ignorant, unintelligent, biased, and provocative. And you're probably the dumbest one. Approx. 90% of posters here are atheists bc they're clearly not confident in their world views.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • J.W

      Wow I would not think that Richard Dawkins would be insulting atheists like that. He is basically the atheist Messiah.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • hippypoet

      i am willing to bet i am more intelligent then you... hands down...and most are atheists because they made the choice to know things over be brainwashed and base there lives on hopes and dreams.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • hippypoet

      and just so you know.. this is the second time i have posted on this article... the other posts weren't mine. please don't judge me on those...

      November 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins.

      @hippy – If you want to make that assertion, then you should probably learn the English language with atleast a 5th grade understanding.

      "more intelligent then you"...........try than bro.

      Think you just proved yourself dumb there hahahahah.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • hippypoet

      @ Richard – all i proved was i don't care for the small stuff that doesn't really matter except by those who don't know really anything and so hold to spelling and grammer corrections instead of posing an argument against the person. Just like a high school teach, you correct out of a book but actually know very little. Now the task at hand is a hard one due to the nature of the forum.... you can go and get the answers before replying and then claim to have the knowledge all along...so use your grand intelligence and form an idea to test ones witt and own intellligence. i shall be there when you do, waiting. 🙂

      November 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  14. Soicanleavecomments OnBlogs

    They are kissing. I do not see any tongue. Whats the freaking issue? It was done in good taste.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Doodlebug

      When I saw it – I first thought it was a kiss of respect how the french do, kissing the cheek to show respect. I have seen elderly men give a son or someone they respect a peck on the lips. I thought it was a very very old school thing.

      November 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  15. Paul Derry

    I'd like to thank Benetton for setting a precedent. Now I won't feel guilty about Photoshopping a photo of Executive Deputy Chairman, Alessandro Benetton with my dick in his mouth and putting it on my homepage, in my Twitter feeds, and on all 40 of my social media sites. Awesome!!!!

    November 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • BuckedWheat

      Okay, but we all know you won't need to use Photoshop.......

      November 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Paul Derry

      @buckedwheat. LMFAO. Good one!

      November 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Social media sites?

      Are you a Miley Cirrus fan?

      Do you have a Justin Biber poster taped to your mattress?

      Kids, what an embarrasement!

      November 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • d

      40 social media sites. How will you have time to get a life let alone a picture to photoshop. Loser.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  16. ADBrew

    Priest all over the world can molest boys and cause irreversible emotional harm on them and scar them for life, and the Church's position is, Opps! sorry, but what control do we have over our own clergy? We have fixed it now, all better, believe us because we are the all mighty and if we say so you must believe, now issue please go away. But post one doctored image of The NAZI Pope kissing another man and it's a serious lack of respect ? Please, something tells me there's an awful lot of old men running around in red white and black dresses down below.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  17. BuckedWheat

    Of course it's fake.....the pope likes them a lot younger.........

    November 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • phoodphite

      maybe so, but he's still robbing the cradle there

      November 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  18. R

    Pope forgot that his boss Adolph died long back. This is free world.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  19. R

    Pope forgot that his boss Hitler died long back. This is free world.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  20. Soicanleavecomments OnBlogs

    Awesome Idea and what a powerful message. I want to see the other pairings. Where can I order prints?

    November 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
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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.