Italian clothing company Benetton has withdrawn a publicity shot of the pope kissing a Muslim religious leader following a Vatican backlash.
A digitally manipulated picture showed Benedict XVI locking lips with Mohammed Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, as part of an advertising campaign that launched on Wednesday and featured unlikely combinations of religious and political figureheads kissing.
An image of Silvio Berlusconi kissing Angela Merkel was withdrawn after the controversial Italian leader submitted his resignation last week.
The offending poster of the pope and Tayeb briefly appeared in Rome, but the Vatican reaction was swift.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi criticised the company for exploiting the pope's image, calling it completely unacceptable.
He 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. 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."
Lombardi also appeared to suggest that the Vatican would try to protect the pope's image in the future.
Benetton apologised, saying it was sorry the picture "had so hurt the sensibilities of the faithful".
Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Holy See earlier this year for what it called "unacceptable interference in its internal affairs" after the pope appeared to criticise the government for failing to protect Christian minorities.
by Riazat Butt taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/17/vatican-criticises-benetton-pope-kissing