Benetton Ads Depicting World Leaders Kissing Decried Around the World

Nov 18, 2011, 09:17 by R.E. Christian

Italian clothing company Benetton was labeled blasphemous Thursday for an ad campaign featuring the pope kissing a top Egyptian imam.

Benetton withdrew its manipulated image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb from its global anti-hate campaign Wednesday after the Vatican said it was a "totally unacceptable use" of the pope's image, ANSA reported.

"Messing with religious symbols and sentiments is not a symptom of creativity but of enormous intellectual laziness,'' Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, stated. ''[It is] a serious act of blasphemy."

The campaign also features doctored images of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

Benetton said the ad was not intended to offend Catholics or Muslims.

''The sense of this campaign is exclusively about fighting the culture of hate in every form,'' a Benetton spokesman told ANSA.

''So we are sorry that the use of the image of the pope and the imam has hurt the sensibilities of the faithful. To show this, we have decided to withdraw this image from all publications with immediate effect."

Benetton, known for controversial advertising, offended Catholics in the past with pictures of a nun kissing a priest.

Source: UPI