‘Provocative’ poster pulled from ad campaign after the Vatican complains

I AM outraged! The BBC yesterday carried a report that a Benetton poster depicting Pope Ratzinger kissing a top Egyptian imam had been pulled after complaints from the Vatican.

It’s not the pulling of the ad that annoyed me so much as the fact that the lily-livered Beeb chose not to reproduce the poster. Instead is used another image from the clothing company’s newest Unhate campaign, aimed at fostering tolerance and “global love”.

Other media, however, have had no such reservations. A quick dip into Google this morning showed it on a large number of sites, including The Huffington Post and CBC News – and I am sure it will have gone viral by the end of the day.

One hour after the Vatican went apeshit over the poster, it reportedly disappeared off Benetton’s website. A Benetton spokesman confirmed that the Pope ad is no longer part of its campaign.

The offending advert formed part of the clothing company’s new ‘Unhate’ campaign which features world leaders who are often at loggerheads, such as President Obama and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, locking lips.

Alessandro Benetton, deputy chairman of Benetton Group , said of the campaign:

It means not hating. In a moment of darkness, with the financial crisis, what’s going on in North African countries, in Athens, this is an attitude we can all embrace … While global love is still a utopia, albeit a worthy one, the invitation ‘not to hate’, to combat the ‘culture of hatred’, is an ambitious but realistic objective.

But the idea of love depicted in this manner – Ratzinger is shown smooching Ahmed el Tayyeb, imam of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo – was clearly too much for the Catholic Church (and, apparently the BBC).

Protesting over the mocked-up picture, Federico Lombard, a spokesman for the Pope said:

We must express the firmest protest for this absolutely unacceptable use of the image of the Holy Father, manipulated and exploited in a publicity campaign with commercial ends.

He added:

This shows a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offence to the feelings of believers, a clear demonstration of how publicity can violate the basic rules of respect for people by attracting attention with provocation.

On the company’s website, executive deputy chairman Alessandro Benetton is quoted as saying that global love is an ambitious but realistic goal. He said:

At this moment in history, so full of major upheavals and equally large hopes, we have decided, through this campaign, to give widespread visibility to an ideal notion of tolerance and invite the citizens of every country to reflect on how hatred arises particularly from fear of ‘the other’ and of what is unfamiliar to us.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn