.- An Italian fashion company has settled a legal conflict with the Vatican, which arose in 2011 after an ad campaign that featured digitally manipulated images of the Pope kissing a Muslim cleric.
In the wake of the legal challenge to its ads, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Benetton Group now recognizes “that the Pope's image must be respected.”
A recent declaration by the fashion company, acknowledged by the Holy See Press Office on May 15, reaffirmed its “regret for having offended His Holiness Benedict XVI and believers” with its “UNHATE” advertisements, which portrayed kisses between religious and political leaders.
One of these doctored images, featuring Pope Benedict and Egyptian imam Ahmed el Tayyeb, was displayed in print and other media – including a large banner near the Vatican – in November 2011. It was withdrawn from publications after an initial apology by Benetton the same month.
Tuesday's announcement from the Holy See marks the resolution of the legal conflict that continued after the withdrawal, as the Vatican sought to prevent further distribution of the image and ensure Benetton's respect for the Pope's reputation in the future.
In its communique, the Benetton Group assured the Vatican that “all photographic images of the Holy Father have been retracted from commercial distribution.”
The company also promised not to use the Pope's image without permission, and to invest resources in stopping any “further use of the image by third parties on internet sites and in other places.”
While the Vatican did not seek any financial compensation for damages, Fr. Lombardi noted that a form of “moral compensation” was requested. The Benetton Group has made an “an act of generosity, (which is) effective even if limited, toward one of the Church's charitable activities.”