Writing to Mr Russell Hawkins, Stamp Programme Manager at the Royal Mail's Philatelic Sector, Cardinal O'Brien says;
"I was delighted to see the stamps produced with the traditional representation of the 'Madonna and Child'. I assure you this will give very great pleasure to very many Christians in our country and throughout the world, who will receive the stamps on their Christmas mail."
The new stamps depict different images of the Madonna and Child from
around the world. The 1st Class stamp features a twentieth century
painting by British artist Marianne Stokes. The 2nd Class stamp, depicts a Black Madonna and Child painted by an unknown Haitian artist. The stamps were designed by award-winning illustrator Irene Von Treskow, who became an Anglican minister in 1995. Royal Mail expect to print more than 200 million 1st Class stamps alone in 2005.
It has been five years since Royal Mail last issued a non-secular set of
stamps and it is now the intention to issue alternate secular and
non-secular Christmas themes. Cardinal O'Brien wrote to Royal Mail management in January 2005 criticising the use in previous years of exclusively secular images on Christmas stamps.
As well as sending a Christmas card to every one of the world's 180 Cardinals, Cardinal O'Brien will also send a card to Pope Benedict XVI together with a presentation 'First Day Cover' of the 2005 designs.
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Note to Editors:
Photographs of Cardinal O'Brien with enlargements of the the 2005 First and Second class stamps are available from Paul McSherry 07770393960.