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Virgin Mary called world's most powerful woman as popularity of name continues to fall

POSTED: December 21, 2015 6:09 a.m.
Kelsey Dallas/

According to Babycenter, Mary is now number 162 on the list of most popular girls' names.

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Mary, mother of Jesus, is the subject of many Christian worship services this holiday season, as congregations prepare to celebrate Christmas. She can also be found on most newsstands, after being named the world's most powerful woman by National Geographic.

"As a universal symbol of maternal love, as well as of suffering and sacrifice, Mary is often a touchstone of our longing for meaning, a more accessible link to the supernatural than formal church teachings," National Geographic reported in its December cover story.

The article by Maureen Orth explores the Virgin Mary's enduring popularity around the world, highlighting the miracles she's credited with, famous shrines and her prominent status in both Christianity and Islam.

When the story was released online in mid-November, other publications responded with their own coverage, echoing National Geographic's claims about Mary's prominence.

"Throughout the centuries, her presence has been ubiquitous," The Irish Independent reported. "Mary is a source of power, help and consolation to many millions."

Orth told National Catholic Reporter that reporting on the Virgin Mary helped her begin to understand the religious figure as a means by which people become more spiritual.

"The yearning for meaning, for spirituality, is universal, I believe. No matter your religion, it's a path towards spirituality. Mary herself became a path and a way," Orth said.

Although the Virgin Mary continues to play an important role in people's religious lives, her status in the realm of baby names is waning. Babycenter reported this month that Mary is now the 162nd most popular name for girls in the United States. It dropped eight spots from 2014.

"No other name has so spectacularly fallen from grace as Mary has," Deseret News National reported last year. "It was the most popular girls' name for the first half of the 20th century. … In fact, from 1900 to 1961, Mary was No. 1 every year, except for the six times she was bumped to second place by that upstart Linda."
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