Italian mayor threatens to sue supermarket chain for airbrushing crosses of historic Italian church on promotional posters

(Reuters/Denis Balibouse)Logos are pictured outside a Lidl retail shop in Geneva, Switzerland May 2, 2016.

A mayor in Italy has threatened to take legal action against supermarket chain Lidl for allegedly airbrushing crosses of a historic church on promotional posters in an effort to avoid offending non-Christian customers.

Lidl drew criticisms earlier this week after residents of the picturesque village of Dolceacqua noticed that its promotional posters did not have the two crosses that were normally in the church of Sant'Antonio Abate.

The case follows a controversy that was sparked last month when the German-owned grocery chain digitally removed the crosses on top of an iconic church on the Greek island of Santorini.

Fulvio Gazzola, the mayor of Dolceacqua, has made a formal complaint to Lidl, asking the grocery chain to restore the crosses, but his request went unanswered.

"You need to show photos of Dolceacqua which correspond to reality. If you don't want to show crosses, then use an image of our castle," the mayor said, according to The Telegraph.

"Lidl said that removing religious symbols is part of an Italian and European publicity strategy. They are free to do what they want but they shouldn't ruin photos. This is harmful to the image of our village and to our Christian traditions," he added.

The mayor said that he will consider taking legal action against Lidl if the company fails to act.

Lidl explained that the crosses were already removed when the image was selected from a photographic database.

"The image used was purchased directly from an independent stock image library, with no subsequent alterations having been made," a spokeswoman told The Sun.

The poster was part of a marketing campaign to display evocative images of some of Italy's most picturesque villages.

The company apologized to its customers and the residents of Dolceacqua for the incident and vowed to remove the image "immediately."

Last month, Greek Orthodox leaders called for a boycott on Lidl after a German shopper noticed that the image on the packaging of its Greek food range Eridaneous did not have the crosses that were supposed to be on the roof of the Anastasis Church in Santorini, Greece.

The company explained in a statement that it avoids the use of religious symbols on its packaging in order to "maintain neutrality in all religions."

Some customers pointed out that some of the Halal meat products offered by the supermarket chain appear to feature buildings with minarets, a piece of Islamic religious architecture.

The removal of the crosses had sparked outrage across Europe, with shoppers in Belgium and Germany criticizing the policy.

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