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“This involves our brand. But it’s not something we’re going to follow here,” said spokeswoman Sheila Young from McDonald’s Corp. headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. “We are just so decentralized. We let the folks in international locations handle their own regional affairs.”

McDonald’s operates 30,000 restaurants in 121 countries, though some operations have been scaled back after the company took its first quarterly financial loss last year.

Preaching “faith and patience,” Chief Executive Officer James Cantalupo recently announced that McDonald’s posted a $327 million profit for the first quarter this year. But the fast-food chain has been vexed with cultural woes.

McDonald’s has become the target of anti-American boycotts in Europe and elsewhere among those who see it as a symbol of “Yankee greed” or a threat to local culture.

The war in Iraq has exacerbated ill will. German protesters of the war in Iraq carried banners earlier this year reading, “McDonald’s sells Happy Meals to finance the war.” Antiwar protestors in London destroyed a McDonald’s site during a May Day demonstration.

McDonald’s locations in Turkey, Lebanon and Indonesia were targeted in bomb attacks by anti-Western groups in recent months.

The Italian courts will deliberate the honor of McDonald’s, according to press accounts this week. The company, however, scored a recent victory of sorts.

McDonald’s became an official sponsor of Pope John Paul II, providing food for a multitude: the 500,000 faithful Spaniards who showed up for a May 21 “pray-in” with the pope at a Madrid airport.

Believers received a “pilgrim’s bag,” with rosary, prayer book, cap and vouchers for burger, fries, soft drink and a baked apple pie.