Reacting to sharp objections from the Vatican over a digitally created ad image showing Pope Benedict XVI kissing an Egyptian imam, Benetton has quickly agreed to drop the photo illustration from its new "Unhate" campaign.
The company just posted this statement:
"We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms," said a Benetton Group spokesman. "We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the Pope and the Imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful. In corroboration of our intentions, we have decided, with immediate effect, to withdraw this image from every publication."
Benetton likes to shock folks with its ad images. As NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reported for our Newcast desk, this new photo-shopped image shows Pope Benedict in a liplock with Egyptian imam Ahmed el Tayyeb. It was one in a set of such digitally created images, including ones of President Obama kissing Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planting a kiss on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Vatican called the ad "unacceptable" and warned it would take unspecified actions to protect the pope's image. Reuters says "a large banner with the image of the pope and the imam was hung from a bridge near the Vatican on Wednesday morning before it was removed."