Vatican to take legal action against Benetton
The Vatican announced on Thursday that it will take legal action over an advertising campaign by Benetton which showed Pope Benedict XVI kissing a Muslim imam.
The Holy See said it wanted the offensive image removed from magazines, newspapers, websites and Benetton shops around the world, saying it was in extremely poor taste.
The image shows the Pope kissing the lips of Ahmed el Tayyeb, the imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo and a leading authority of Sunni Islam.
A statement from the Vatican said it would instruct its lawyers “to take action in Italy and abroad to prevent the circulation in the mass-media and elsewhere of the photo montage produced as part of Benetton’s publicity campaign.”
The image was insulting “not only to the dignity of the Pope but also to the sensibilities of the faithful”, the Vatican said.
The legal threat came despite the fact that Benetton, which is based in Treviso in northern Italy, announced that it would withdraw the image following the furore.
The clothing company said it was sorry that the picture “had so hurt the sensibilities of the faithful.” The advertisement was also criticised by the Al-Azhar Mosque in the Egyptian capital. Mahmud Azab, an adviser to the imam, said it was “irresponsible and absurd.”
He said it went far beyond the boundaries of “universal values and freedom of expression as understood in Europe.”
The image of the Pope was part of a campaign, launched on Wednesday, called ’Unhate’ which features leaders from opposite sides of the political and religious divide exchanging kisses in digitally manipulated montages.
Other photos showed Nicholas Sarkozy smooching the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama kissing his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, locked in an embrace with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader.
Benetton had defended the provocative campaign, saying its purpose was to stimulate debate on reconciliation and mediation in politics and religion.
Its aim was to “contrast the culture of hatred and promote closeness between peoples, faiths, cultures and the peaceful understanding of each other’s motivations. The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love.”
But the Vatican’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said on Wednesday that the image showed “a grave lack of respect for the Pope and an offence to the feelings of believers.” Benetton is well known for its controversial publicity campaigns, which in the past have included the image of a nun kissing a priest and parents grieving over a man dying of Aids.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... etton.html