Church welcomes Royal Mail's return to Christmas-themed stamps

The Church of England has greeted Royal Mail's decision to re-establish a religious theme for its Christmas stamp collection.

|PIC1|The Royal Mail is to release a collection of eight stamps with illustrations of baby Jesus, Mary, as well as angels, this Christmas.

The Church was highly critical in 2006 when the Royal Mail's stamp collection carried only secular themes of the Christian holiday, and even though they have welcomed the return to religious themes this year, the Royal Mail said it would alternate between secular and religious themes annually.

The themes have already been set for 2008, a Royal Mail spokesman said, and it has decided that classic pantomime characters would be a good feature for next year's Christmas.

"Last year featured a series of winter wonderland images, so this year features angels and the Madonna and Child," a Royal Mail spokesman was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Christina Baxter, chairwoman of the House of Laity of the Church of England's General Synod, said of the Madonna and Child image on a first-class stamp: "I very much welcome an explicitly Christian theme for that particular stamp.

|PIC2|"Although the others are not to my personal taste, I nevertheless welcome stamps that carry values that are explicitly Christian, and I hope they will produce Christian stamps next year too at Christmas."

The Church has emphasised the importance of Christmas stamps being filled with Christian-themed designs rather than a random secular selection, as this would "remind people of the true meaning of Christmas".

Two billion letters are expected to be sent over the festive period in the UK, and on 17 December alone Royal Mail have predicted 123 million items will pass through the postal system.