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01Mary The Woman20100607
You may not believe in her but you cannot ignore her: Mary is the most important woman in world religion, a cult figure in the Catholic Church who relates to the big questions in our lives - sex, politics and religion.
She is a symbol of maternity, hope, faith, superstition, feminism and beauty.
She arouses both fervent devotion and deep scepticism.
Presenter Rosie Goldsmith, who has a life-long fascination with the Virgin Mary, asks why she is so important in today's world and whether this Modern Mary is a force for good or bad.
She explores the origins of Mary and asks how this one woman can be not only a model of submissive womanhood but also a feminist icon and a Jungian female archetype.
She talks with Richard Dawkins, Ann Widdecombe, Marina Warner and Miri Rubin about why they believe in or reject Mary.
She visits the shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham and meets a group of children who tell us simply that she's the most beautiful woman in the world.
And she examines her own personal passion for the figure of Mary, a passion which has taken her around the world.
Neither Catholic nor religious, Rosie is fascinated by the power Mary continues to hold over people.
Not only has Mary been propelled into the 21st century as a modern icon, she has also found a home in diverse communities across the world and in the Islamic as well as the Christian faith.
Producer: Sarah Cuddon
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
Rosie Goldsmith explores the power of the Virgin Mary in the modern world.
02Mary In Religion20100608
Rosie Goldsmith explores the religious power of the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin Mary is a global symbol of faith, hope and charity; of beauty and motherhood, but also of superstition and propaganda.
She arouses both fervent devotion and deep scepticism.
Millions still flock to worship her statues and shrines.
Others see her as a tool for the suppression of women and of political nationalism.
A pregnant Muslim student at Oxford enthuses about Mary's mother role and explains how she features in the Muslim faith.
The actress Lisa Dwan describes how she continues to hold Mary close as part of her Irish Catholic upbringing despite being an agnostic.
And she hears from a Professor at a University in Rome where there is an entire faculty devoted to the study of the Virgin Mary.
Producer: Sarah Cuddon
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
A pregnant Muslim student at Oxford enthuses about Mary's mother role.
03Mary In Politics20100609
Rosie Goldsmith asks whether Modern Mary is a progressive or reactionary figure in society.
When she attracts 10 million people a year to her shrine in Mexico and 5000 people a week - many on their knees - to Czestochowa, you've got to ask where her power lies and how it is used or abused.
Do governments in Mexico and the Philippines exploit her to keep the poor quiet and happy? In Sri Lanka, for example, she has been co-opted as Our Lady of Guerilla Warfare by insurgents.
In Poland she is still a potent symbol of nationalism and unity.
She talks with Richard Dawkins, Ann Widdecombe, Marina Warner, Oliver McTernan, Miri Rubin and Mark Dowd about why they believe in or reject Mary and whether they see her as a political force for good or bad.
She explores the political importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and meets a Mexican artist who describes the Virgin's potency as a national symbol.
And she examines the role of John Paul II in promoting the figure of Mary.
Producer: Sarah Cuddon
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
Rosie asks whether modern Mary is a progressive or reactionary figure in society.
04Mary In Art20100610
As an image and an inspiration for writers, musicians and poets as well as painters and sculptors, the Virgin Mary is one of the most celebrated muses in the world.
Rosie Goldsmith talks with Richard Dawkins, Ann Widdecombe, Marina Warner and Miri Rubin about why they believe in or reject the power of Mary as a subject of art.
At the Holy Week processions in Seville she witnesses the intense modern-day veneration of their Mary - the Macarana - and meets a young Seville sculptor for whom Mary is a constant muse.
She talks to Xavier Bray, curator of Spanish and Italian painting at the National Gallery in London about the figure of the Virgin in sacred art and she examines the controversial work of contemporary British artist Chris Ofili.
Producer: Sarah Cuddon
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
Rosie Goldsmith investigates the power of Mary as a subject of art.
05Mary In Cyberspace20100617 
05 LASTMary In Cyberspace20100611Rosie Goldsmith, who has a life-long fascination with the Virgin Mary, explores her power as an apparition and in visions around the world.
Mary is a global symbol.
She's also a figment of wild hallucinations.
Her face is on T-shirts and jewellery.
Modern-day apparitions have been spotted in fruit bowls and on pieces of toast and filmed on mobile phones.
Thousands of websites are devoted to her and millions of people still travel hundreds of miles to worship at her shrines, to pray for health and happiness.
But many people argue that Mary is just one big con trick - a poetic myth-maker for the Catholic Church, a hallucination created in the minds of the ill and the vulnerable.
In this programme Rosie talks with Richard Dawkins, Ann Widdecombe, Marina Warner, Mark Dowd, Susie Orbach and Miri Rubin and asks how they reconcile an often holy madness with today's need for multi-faith balance? At the Knock shrine in Ireland a woman reveals how Our Lady cured her as she was dying.
An expert on 21st century Cyber-Mary explains how the internet is today the most powerful weapon in whipping up Mary fervour.
And a young American student describes witnessing the apparition of Mary in a hospital window in Massachusetts.
Producer: Sarah Cuddon
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
Rosie Goldsmith explores the power of the Virgin Mary as an apparition and in visions.

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