The New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority has dismissed complaints against a billboard depicting Pope Benedict XVI blessing the marriage of a male gay couple.

The four-and-a-half story billboard was erected last month as part of a campaign in Auckland and Wellington by a power company.

“It is attempting to imply that the Catholic Church and the Vatican condone same sex marriage despite no formal communication of said claim,” one complainant wrote.

Other complaints said the sign mocked the Catholic religion and was offensive to Christians.

The authority dismissed the four complaints it received, saying the sign was unlikely to cause widespread offense.

“Neither did it breach the due sense of responsibility to consumers and society,” the authority said.

The ironic sign is a reference to proposed legislation to legalize gay marriage in New Zealand. Legislation which the Catholic Church opposes.

The company said it wanted to “stimulate debate.”

“Obviously it's not our intent to offend people,” Ari Sargent, chief executive of Powershop, the company which put up the signs, told The New Zealand Herald.