Italian fashion company The United Colors of Benetton is no stranger to controversial ad campaigns, but the chain’s latest may have pushed the envelope too far. The ad campaign, called “Unhate” by Benetton, features world leaders kissing each other in an act of tolerance.
Members of the Vatican, however, claim the ad featuring Pope Benedict XVI and Ahmed el Tayyeb, the imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, goes way too far. The church will take legal action to prevent the distribution of the image through mass media channels throughout the world.
A Vatican spokesman said the image was insulting “not only to the dignity of the Pope but also to the sensibilities of the faithful.” Benetton had already vowed to suspend distribution of the image prior to the church’s announcement. “We are sorry that the use of an image of the pontiff and the imam should have offended the sensibilities of the faithful in this way,” the company said in a statement. They claimed the advertisement was designed “exclusively to fight the culture of hate in every form.”
Earlier in the day, a large banner of the image appeared close to the Vatican in Rome. It was promptly removed.