The following comes from a November 10 Catholic News Agency article:

In a November 8 feature for National Geographic, “How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman,” Maureen Orth explores the worldwide phenomenon of devotion to the Mother of God in anticipation of the December 13 National Geographic Channel special, “The Cult of Mary.”

In her piece, Orth spoke with Marian scholars and experts and even followed pilgrims to Marian apparition sites to learn more about this “most powerful woman.”

“We see the relationship of Mary with us isn’t just any relationship – it’s sacred,” María Enriqueta García, who did her sacred theology dissertation at the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, told Orth.

For her story, Orth accompanied pilgrims around the world to Marian apparition sites including Lourdes, Kibeho, Mexico City, and even Medjugorje – where apparitions are said to still be occurring and the Vatican has not yet ruled on its authenticity.

In Kibeho, Rwanda she met with Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, one of the young women to whom the Virgin Mary appeared from 1981 to 1983 with the message of repentance and foretold the events of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

“The first time she appeared,” Anathalie said, “I was reciting the rosary, and she called me by my name … She never told me why she chose me. She said she appears to anyone she wants, anytime she wants, anywhere she wants,” Anathalie said. “She only asks us to love her as much as she loves us.”

In addition to Christians, Muslims hold the Blessed Mother in high regard, Orth said, noting that her name appears more in the Koran than in the New Testament.

“So the Virgin Mary is not at all strange to Muslims,” Father Johann Roten, director of research and special projects at the University of Dayton’s Marian Library, said.

“In fact, wherever there is a connection between Christians and Muslims – or any two groups that know and love her – there is a common value in the covenant mother.”

In Egypt, Orth spoke with Muslims who were drawn to churches because of their devotion to Mary.

“Her story tells us a lot of things,” a young Muslim woman praying outside the Abu Serga church on Easter said. “She is able to face lots of hardships in her life because of her faith, her belief in God.”