By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tTo the extent that the Vatican has a discernible public relations strategy for Pope Benedict XVI's weekend visit to the island nation of Malta, it might be expressed in a simple formula: "Let Benedict be Benedict."
tRather than allowing the global media to set the agenda, which in practice would have meant a near-exclusive focus on the sexual abuse crisis, the pontiff has instead concentrated on his core themes: Europe’s Christian roots, the struggle to defend human life and the family, a welcoming stance towards immigrants, and the important of not succumbing to secular values and relativism.
tAt least on the ground in this nation of 400,000, where 94 percent of the population is Catholic, the strategy appears to be working. Crowds for the pope have been large and lively, and the Times of Malta led its day one wrap-up coverage by referring to the “enthusiastic welcome” the pope received.