The Royal Mail has dismissed rumours claiming that it is trying to phase out religious Christmas stamps. A chain e-mail criticises one of this year's designs - featuring angels - claiming that the image of an angel is "just vaguely Christian but not explicitly so and certainly not specifically Christmassy." It goes on to say that a second design, featuring a Madonna and Child, for first and second class stamps, is only available from Post Offices. The message says: "It seems that Post Office staff have been instructed to only sell this design if people specifically request it, but obviously people can't request it if they don't know it exists! If people don't buy these stamps, Royal Mail will claim there is no demand for religious Christmas stamps and not produce them in future. Please therefore ask for Madonna and Child stamps when you do your Christmas posting and also ask your friends to do the same." Royal Mail spokesman Patrick O'Neil told ICN: "These claims are frankly rubbish. This is scaremongering. To say that the image of an angel has nothing to do with Christmas is just wrong. And the Madonna and Child stamps are widely available. We have been selling religious postage stamps at Christmas every other year for more than 40 years and this year is no different. Why on earth would we want to phase them out? Our Christmas stamps are on sale in 55,000 retail outlets around the country as they are every year. "
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