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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. brooksjk

    As a Christian, what makes your faith different than that of a Muslim, a Hindu, or even the “non-faith” of an atheist? Are we able to properly explain our faith to each other, let alone someone who is desperately in need of the healing power of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ? The Four Pillars of the Kingdom is an attempt to help us do just that by laying the groundwork, in an accessible manner, of what it means to be a Christian. The pillar of belief: why do we believe as we do? The pillar of knowledge: how we obtain our knowledge through scripture, prayer and even praise. The pillar of life: what is the proper Christian life and how our actions represent Christ to the rest of the world. And the pillar of love: how all love comes from God and should flow from us to those around us. The Four Pillars of the Kingdom will challenge your relationship with Jesus but, in doing so; make it stronger and closer than you ever thought possible
    .
    Available now on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

    http://bit.ly/joesbookshelf

    November 18, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  2. brooksjk

    The Four Pillars of the Kingdom

    As a Christian, what makes your faith different than that of a Muslim, a Hindu, or even the “non-faith” of an atheist? Are we able to properly explain our faith to each other, let alone someone who is desperately in need of the healing power of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ? The Four Pillars of the Kingdom is an attempt to help us do just that by laying the groundwork, in an accessible manner, of what it means to be a Christian. The pillar of belief: why do we believe as we do? The pillar of knowledge: how we obtain our knowledge through scripture, prayer and even praise. The pillar of life: what is the proper Christian life and how our actions represent Christ to the rest of the world. And the pillar of love: how all love comes from God and should flow from us to those around us. The Four Pillars of the Kingdom will challenge your relationship with Jesus but, in doing so; make it stronger and closer than you ever thought possible
    .
    Available now on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

    http://bit.ly/joesbookshelf

    November 18, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  3. george

    Disgusting. Not only I will never buy Benetton again, but I will do whatever I can do (legally) to harm Benetton.

    November 18, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm sure they're shaking in their boots, george. When was the last time you bought anything from Bennetton, anyway?

      November 18, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  4. George

    Not only I will never buy Benetton again, but I will do whatever I can do (legally) to harm Benetton.

    November 18, 2011 at 7:18 am |
  5. Guest

    Everyone knows all those religious types are gay for each other

    November 18, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  6. Mirosal

    Hey .. did the Vatican ever sue Sinead O'Connor when she tore up that pic of the Pope back in 1990? They didn't?? If they didn't sue her, why sue Benetton?

    November 18, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Guest

      They aren't suing. They are forcing the removal of the ad.... read the article

      November 18, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  7. Mirosal

    hmmmm... ok you have the Pope and an imam.. interesting combination. Let's step it up a few notches ... what would happen if ... say ... an artist made a picture of .... that jesus guy, hugging some other old dead guy named mohammed. Nothing overt, a simple hug ... along with that message of "unhate"> think the Muslims would get a call to arms and start issuing fatwas?

    November 18, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  8. surry

    belive in alah which is the greatest.

    November 18, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • R

      We need photo of Allah kissing God. However, Allah do not like himself that is why he do not have his photo.

      November 18, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • J.W

      Allah is God. He would have to kiss himself. If you wanted God to kiss someone He could kiss Vishnu or Zeus or someone like that. But God is straight so he would rather kiss Aphrodite or someone like that.

      November 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  9. Ah....wait just a second

    Cluck, cluck, cluck. The old ladies in the hen house are really riled up about this one. Cluck, cluck, cluck.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:35 am |
  10. Passive Aggressive

    Praise The Lord!!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqCccV6Y31s&w=640&h=360]

    November 18, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY8fjFKAC5k&w=640&h=360]

      November 18, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  11. Passive Aggressive

    MOLLY.

    NEEDS.

    IT.

    November 18, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  12. Passive Aggressive

    I know what Molly needs. Oooooh. I know what she neeeeeeeeds. Oh yes. Molly. Needs. And I know what it is. That she needs.

    WORSHIP THE ALMIGHTY SUN.

    Molly.

    Oh yeah, she needs. Something.

    November 18, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  13. Reality

    The photo is yucky but why prolong the stupidity with a lawsuit?

    November 18, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  14. tallulah13

    So the vatican doesn't believe in "turning the other cheek"? There a surprise.

    November 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  15. Passive Aggressive

    I know what Molly needs.

    November 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  16. arslan

    how dare u ppl post pics like that

    November 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      What ppl?

      November 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      arlan, you said u people. what ppl?

      November 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Passive Aggresive

      arslan, WHAT PPL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT. YOU SAID U PEOPLE. PLEASE EXPLAIN.

      November 18, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Passive: Unfortunately I think we both know Arlan's answer to your question. What I'd like to know is how Arlan missed the other two places this picture is and what exactly his/her issue is with the photo?

      November 18, 2011 at 6:18 am |
  17. Enoch

    If it was the Imam and the virgin Catholics - weapons in their hands - doing that I would have said they were in a Muslim paradise.

    November 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  18. Enoch

    This is what the LORD says: "Cursed are those who trust in mortals, who depend on flesh for their strength and whose hearts turn away from the LORD." -Jeremiah 17:5

    November 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • hippypoet

      so go then... burn your flesh off and then die and i will trust in you...:)

      November 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Enoch, I am trying to turn my heart away from the lord but I can't figure out where he is. Which way should I turn?

      November 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Enoch, you are leaving me hangin' bro. Not cool.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Passive Aggresive

      Enoch, why don't you answer?? What is your problem??

      November 18, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @enoch: if we can depend on mortals, who should we depend on?

      November 18, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      oops should have read if we can't depend on...

      November 18, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  19. Iqbal Khan

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J-9dn3_hpY&w=640&h=360]

    November 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Man I wanna shear that dudes beard in the worst way....I am shaking....

      November 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      he looks like that Pearl guy who promotes beating you kida until they almost die or do die

      November 18, 2011 at 6:22 am |
    • phoodphite

      @Passive Agressive: lol – you must be a member of their 'break-away' sect and live in Ohio, right?

      November 18, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  20. hippypoet

    people love to hate, and thats why the world is doomed to failure! the posts here confirm it...believer or not – there is so such hate here its sad.

    November 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Hippy don't start pointing the finger at others now. YOU are the one who refuses to share the GF fiddy and passes the dutchie from the right hand side rather than the left. Rocks and glass houses and all that Poet Prophet!

      November 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • hippypoet

      i share my scotch all the time... and i am left handed – so i naturally pass to the left – how dare you good sir! darkening my name like that, i should have you flogged but since i am in an excellent mood – i say SPARK IT, POUR IT, AND BRING IT DOWN!!!

      November 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Oooh HP, some GF, chronic and a little friendly flogging? I am in!

      November 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • hippypoet

      molly is invited too...but mary is too virgin-ie for the party, wicked bring down... most likely a light weight as well!

      November 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      I know what Molly needs. A little enema. And apparently there is no law against that....

      November 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
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About this blog

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.