The clothing company Benetton has pulled an ad in which a Photoshopped image of the pope is shown kissing the lips of Ahmed el Tayyeb, an imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo.
The photo appeared as part of campaign entitled “Unhate” where photoshopped images of world leaders are depicted kissing one another.
Other photos show the leaders of North and South Korea kissing, as well of images of the leaders of Israel and Palestinian Authority, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and President Barack Obama kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The Vatican, which deemed the ad offensive, was prepared to take legal action against the clothing company, and ordered that the images be removed from magazine, newspapers, websites, and Benetton shops around the world, due to what it called extremely poor taste.
According to the Vatican: "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," said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman.
Benetton stated that their campaign was intended "solely to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms."
Benetton has been criticised in many quarters for its extreme tolerance stance.