Benetton had said its "Unhate" campaign launched Wednesday was aimed at fostering tolerance and "global love."
The campaign's fake photos feature a half-dozen purported political nemeses in lip-locked embraces, including President Barack Obama and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
The photo of the pope kissing Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of Cairo's al-Azhar institute, the pre-eminent theological school of Sunni Islam, had been on Benetton's website all day but was pulled about an hour after the Vatican's protest.
Image: Picture taken on November 16, 2011 in Paris, shows a Benetton clothing store window covered by a poster showing US president Barack Obama smooching his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao as part of the launch of a provocative publicity campaign with photo montages. The posters, part of an advertising campaign entitled "UNHATE", have appeared in Benetton stores across the globe as well as in newspapers, magazines and on Internet websites.