The Vatican is taking legal action against Benetton's advertising campaign showing the Pope kissing an Imam.

The Italian clothing company has said it will pull the ad, which is made up of montages of several political and religious leaders locking lips. The images are part of a global advertising campaign from Benetton.

The Vatican issued a statement on Thursday noting that lawyers in Italy and elsewhere have been advised to initiate action to prevent the circulation of this image through the mass media and other formats.

It is unsure whether the Vatican will sue Benetton for the advertising campaign, but it made it clear that Pope is seen in a way that may be considered harmful not only to the dignity of the Pope and the Catholic Church, but also to the sensibility of believers.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Wednesday said the doctored image is a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offence against the sentiments of the faithful and a clear example of how advertising can violate elementary rules of respect for people in order to attract attention through provocation.

Benetton issued a statement announcing the withdrawal of the ad and noted that the campaign was exclusively to fight the culture of hate in every form.

We are sorry that the use of an image of the pontiff and the imam should have offended the sensibilities of the faithful in this way, the statement read.

It isn't the first time the clothing company ran a controversial ad.

Reuters reported that the Italian clothing company has shown an ad where there were grieving parents at the bedside of a man dying of AIDS.