Vatican settles with Benetton over kissing ad

Published May 17, 2012

Italian fashion group Benetton has admitted to exploiting the Pope Benedict’s image in a provocative ad campaign. Photo: Martin Ezequiel Gardeazabal

On May 15, the Vatican announced that it had settled a lawsuit against Italian clothing firm Benetton Group. The legal action was undertaken after Benetton’s UNHATE advertising campaign unlawfully used an image of Pope Benedict kissing Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed El-Tayeb, imam of Cairo’s renowned al-Azhar Mosque and a leading voice in Sunni Islam.

In his communique, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See press office, noted that the Benetton group had “published a note reaffirming its regret for having offended His Holiness Benedict XVI and believers.” The note also offered assurances that “all photographic images of the Holy Father have been retracted from commercial distribution…”

Benetton also agreed to use its resources to stop the further use of the image by third parties on internet sites and elsewhere.

The Vatican did not seek monetary compensation but asked for “moral compensation in recognition of the abuse committed.” Instead, the ailing fashion group has made a modest donation to a Roman Catholic charity.

The UNHATE campaign, launched in November 2011, also showed images of U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jintao and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was depicted kissing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was shown kissing Angela Merkel, German chancellor.

In response to last year’s ad, Catholic activists spearheaded a boycott against Benetton products.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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