Vatican denounces 'manipulative' use of Pope's image in Benetton ad campaign
November 16, 2011
The Vatican has lodged a protest against a new Benetton ad campaign that features a doctored photo of Pope Benedict XVI kissing an Egyptian Islamic leader.
Benetton—a company with a history of provocative ads—has launched a new campaign with the slogan “unhate.” The campaign features images of various world leaders locked in romantic embraces with their rivals. Pope Benedict and Sheik Ahmad al Tayyib form one of the couples; others include Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez; Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.
Sheik al Tayyib is the head of the Al Azhar University in Cairo: the world’s leading institution of Sunni Islamic thought. The Al Azhar mosque had been a partner in dialogue for the Vatican until this year, when the Egyptian institution broke off all talks with the Holy See, claiming that Pope Benedict had insulted Egypt by insisting that the nation’s Christian minority deserves protection. An oversized poster of the photo showing the Pope and the Egyptian sheik was draped over a bridge across the Tiber River near the Vatican until officials removed it.
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, complained that the retouched photo was “manipulated and instrumentalized” for the ad campaign. This “completely unacceptable” use of the Pope’s image showed a “grave lack of respect,” he said. Father Lombardi hinted that the Vatican might consider legal action.
Benetton responded quickly to the protests with an announcement that it was pulling the image of the Pope from the "unhate" campaign.
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- Vatican protests Benetton ad showing pope kissing imam (Reuters)
- Benetton yanks pope-imam kiss ad after protest (AP)
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