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Benetton pulls Pope ‘kissing’ ads after Vatican legal threat

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Controversial: Pope Benedict 'kissing' Egyptian cleric Ahmed el Tayeb in the clothing firm's ad

Controversial: Pope Benedict 'kissing' Egyptian cleric Ahmed el Tayeb in the clothing firm's ad

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy

Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

A poster from an anti-smoking campaign by Les Droits des Non-fumeurs which has caused outrage for its implied association that smoking is tantamount to sex slavery.

A poster from an anti-smoking campaign by Les Droits des Non-fumeurs which has caused outrage for its implied association that smoking is tantamount to sex slavery.

This poster of a grotesquely well developed child is part of a campaign by ad agency Serve, commissioned by the Family Violence Partnership in Milwaukee, to raise awareness about statutory rape. The tagline reads 'If you see a child as anything more, it's wrong.'

This poster of a grotesquely well developed child is part of a campaign by ad agency Serve, commissioned by the Family Violence Partnership in Milwaukee, to raise awareness about statutory rape. The tagline reads 'If you see a child as anything more, it's wrong.'

Toyota is probably regretting its ad campaign for the virtuously eco-friendly Prius. The posters portray three immoral scenes - murder (above), prostitution and adultery- bearing the tagline 'Well, at least he drives a Prius'.

Toyota is probably regretting its ad campaign for the virtuously eco-friendly Prius. The posters portray three immoral scenes - murder (above), prostitution and adultery- bearing the tagline 'Well, at least he drives a Prius'.

A South American beauty clinic called Xiomara Coronado Beauty Center launched this campaign featuring digitally enhanced images of Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton, alleging that they'd look that wrinkly in years to come if they neglected their skincare routine.

A South American beauty clinic called Xiomara Coronado Beauty Center launched this campaign featuring digitally enhanced images of Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton, alleging that they'd look that wrinkly in years to come if they neglected their skincare routine.

M&C Saatchi is responsible for this campaign for the Australian Red Cross aimed at promoting blood donation. The gruesome image of a blood filled donation pot certainly provokes a reaction.

M&C Saatchi is responsible for this campaign for the Australian Red Cross aimed at promoting blood donation. The gruesome image of a blood filled donation pot certainly provokes a reaction.

This Benetton advert features a photo of Aids sufferer and activist David Kirby and his family by Therese Frare (1990). The original picture, which won the World Press Photo Award, was published in black and white, but Benetton's advertisers decided they wanted to use a colour version to make it seem more shockingly like a real ad. The ad was designed to raise awareness of Aids and Kirby's family and Frare approved of the photos use. But it provoked a storm of criticism from other Aids activists who claimed the campaign was in some way a vindication of homosexuality.

This Benetton advert features a photo of Aids sufferer and activist David Kirby and his family by Therese Frare (1990). The original picture, which won the World Press Photo Award, was published in black and white, but Benetton's advertisers decided they wanted to use a colour version to make it seem more shockingly like a real ad. The ad was designed to raise awareness of Aids and Kirby's family and Frare approved of the photos use. But it provoked a storm of criticism from other Aids activists who claimed the campaign was in some way a vindication of homosexuality.

Bearing the slogan 'Fair trial, my arse,' this Agent Provocateur advert bears a cheeky message. Having teamed up with human rights campaigners Reprieve, the sheer orange undies were part of a wider campaign against the illegal detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Bearing the slogan 'Fair trial, my arse,' this Agent Provocateur advert bears a cheeky message. Having teamed up with human rights campaigners Reprieve, the sheer orange undies were part of a wider campaign against the illegal detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Controversial: Pope Benedict 'kissing' Egyptian cleric Ahmed el Tayeb in the clothing firm's ad

Clothing chain Benetton has pulled a controversial image of the Pope ‘kissing’ Egyptian cleric Ahmed el Tayeb after the Vatican threatened legal action.

Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi called the Benetton campaign a “grave disrespect”.

The image of Pope Benedict XVI ‘kissing’ Sheikh el Tayeb, imam of the renowned al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, was pulled almost immediately after the Vatican protested.

The campaign, which also features US President Barack Obama and other world leaders, has provoked a storm of reaction on social networks and in blogs.

The photoshopped images show Obama with Hu Jintao of China and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Nethanyahu is pictured ‘kissing’ Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

The Vatican issued a statement condemning the exploitation of the Pontiff’s image.

“This is a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offence against the sentiments of the faithful and a clear example of how advertising can violate elementary rules of respect for people in order to attract attention through provocation,” Rev Lombardi said in a statement.

The Benetton advertising campaign called ‘Unhate’ was launched on Wednesday.

Giant posters of the ‘kissing’ ads were launched in Milan, Paris, Tel Aviv and New York.

However, Reuters reported that a poster of the Pope ‘kissing’ was removed from a bridge near the Vatican shortly after it was put up.

“We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms,” a Benetton Group spokesman said in a statement.

“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.”

Belfast Telegraph