"The Secretariat of State has authorized its lawyers to initiate actions, in Italy and elsewhere, to prevent the circulation, via the mass media and in other ways, of a photomontage used in a Benetton advertising campaign in which the Holy Father appears in a way considered to be harmful, not only to the dignity of the Pope and the Catholic Church, but also to the sensibility of believers," the Vatican said in a statement.
The Benetton ad campaign, dubbed "Unhate," features a montage of world leaders kissing each other. The pontiff is shown kissing Ahmed Mohamed el Tayeb, the imam of the al Azhar mosque in Eqypt, and President Barack Obama is shown kissing both Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as well as Chinese Premier Hu Jintao. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is depicted kissing Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas.
Even though Benetton agreed to pull the offensive photo, the Vatican wants to take legal steps to be sure the pope's image is not used in this way again.
"We cannot but express a resolute protest at the entirely unacceptable use of a manipulated image of the Holy Father, used as part of a publicity campaign which has commercial ends," said Holy See Press Office Director Father Federico Lombardi, S.J.
"It is a serious lack of respect for the Pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful and an evident demonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can be broken in order to attract attention by provocation.
"The Secretariat of State is examining the steps that may be taken with the competent authorities in order to guarantee adequate protection for the figure of the Holy Father."
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