Executive deputy chairman Alessandro Benetton presented
the 'Unhate' ads in Paris on Wednesday.
The Unhate campaign shows Photoshopped images of U.S. President Barack Obama in a real life unlikely kiss with world leaders such as Hugo Chavez. Even religious leaders are not left out in the campaign, which shows the Pope kissing a top Egyptian imam.
"The campaign seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance, to combat hatred, building on Benetton’s underpinning values,” the Italian clothing and retail company said in a statement
The company added that the campaign would involve what it called unannounced live actions.
''Groups of young people will post the manifestos showing kissing leaders on the walls of locations symbolic of the desperately-needed peace process: Tel Aviv, New York, Rome, Milan, Paris," Benetton explained
in a statement.
The Catholic Church reacted angrily to the campaign, calling it unacceptable.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi condemned the use of the head of the Catholic Church in an ad campaign he said was disrespectful and provocative.
"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," the Star
quoted him as saying said in a statement.
In response to the Vatican’s protest, the Benetton clothing company on Wednesday withdrew
the ad featuring the false photo of Pope Benedict XVI kissing a top Egyptian imam on the lips.