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Vatican Plans Legal Action Over 'Unhate' Ad Featuring the Pope in a Same-Sex Kiss

"It is a serious lack of respect for the pope..."

The Vatican is apparently taking its displeasure with the Pope's depiction in a new advertisement campaign to the next level. On Wednesday, the Blaze reported on the controversy over a new retail campaign that shows President Obama kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Pope kissing an Imam, among other same-sex smooches.

After the initial Photoshopped image of the Pope passionately kissing Egyptian imam Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb was released, the Vatican instantly voiced its opposition and weighed taking legal action. Now, the Catholic Church has decided that it will, indeed, sue over the offensive picture. This development comes after Benetton, the Italian clothing company that created the advertisement, pulled the image from its campaign earlier this week.

According to the Guardian, Vatican press secretary Father Federico Lombardi was more than open about how the church viewed the campaign. "We cannot but express a resolute protest at the entirely unacceptable use of a manipulated image of the Holy Father, used as part of a publicity campaign which has commercial ends," he said.

"It is a serious lack of respect for the pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful and an evident demonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can be broken in order to attract attention by provocation," Lombardi continued.

Below, find a roughly translated (the original was published in Italian) press statement from the Vatican that explains its intentions:

The Secretary of State has instructed its lawyers to undertake, in Italy and abroad, the appropriate action to prevent the movement, including through the mass media, artwork, created as part of Benetton's advertising campaign, in which it appears the image of the Holy Father in a way, typically commercial, deemed to be offensive not only the dignity of the Pope and the Catholic Church, but also the sensibilities of believers.

Benetton claims the the "Unhate" campaign was a coordinated effort to promote peace and to encourage dialogue between parties who are at odds. The Pope and Al-Azhar have been at odds since the imam suspended interfaith talks between the two parties earlier this year, which may explain why they were chosen for the ad. The Pope had been advocating for Egypt's minority Christian population, which is what caused the initial friction between the two parties.

Essentially, the campaign, according to the company, was rooted in encouraging peaceful dialogue. Of course, shock value is rarely bad for business when it comes to launching campaigns.

Does the Pope ad go too far? Tell us what you think in our poll, below:

(H/T: HuffPo)

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