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Vatican, Benetton Reach Agreement

The fashion brand included a doctored image of the Pope kissing Egypt’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb of Al-Azhar in its Unhate campaign.

MAKING PEACE: The Vatican was not amused when the Benetton Group presented its Unhate campaign to the press in November 2011, and the fashion brand included a doctored image of the Pope kissing Egypt’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb of Al-Azhar.

The Unhate campaign — one of Benetton’s most interactive, having reached an estimated 500 million people — used the kiss as a symbol of love and reconciliation, and showed various international political and religious leaders locked in unlikely embraces to provoke discussion, especially on the Internet and various digital platforms.

Although the image of the Pope and Grand Imam was never used once the campaign launched, it quickly went viral, and Vatican officials said it was “damaging not only to the dignity of the Pope and the Catholic Church, but also to the sensibility of the faithful.”

All’s well that ends well, however, and the Holy See has since reached a peaceable agreement with Benetton. In a statement this week, the fashion group stressed that it “never intended to offend His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI” or Catholics, confirmed that the image was no longer a part of any campaigns, and noted that in the future it would refrain from using the Pope’s image without explicit Vatican consent.

The brand will also make a donation to a charity of the Vatican’s choice, as a gesture of good will.