Pope Francis stopped in Cuba on his way to a Tuesday arrival in Washington, DC.  While there, the Holy Father took a victory lap for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Pope Francis landed in Cuba on Saturday, quickly calling on the communist nation to “open itself to the world,” while praising its recent restoration of diplomatic ties with the United States.

Francis was greeted by President Raul Castro at Jose Marti International airport in Havana, where the pontiff urged Cuba to grant its people the “freedom, the means and the space” to practice their religion, an implicit criticism of the sharp restrictions the country has placed on faith.

Obama should be grateful to the pontiff, who helped the President achieve a very rare foreign policy “success”. If he is, the Obama sure has a strange way of showing it.

In a stunning show of political indecorum, Obama has invited a series of individuals who publicly flout Catholic teaching, including a pro-abortion religious sister, a transgender woman and the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, along with at least two Catholic gay activists.

Truly, this is the sort of SmartPowerTM move we have come to expect from the White House.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighed in via Facebook:

LI #05 Mike Huckabee

However, Huckabee is not Catholic. So, just how outrageous is this guest list to Catholics?

The Vatican official – who asked not to be identified – said that officials in Rome were not “overly concerned” that the White House guest list for the pope’s welcome party in Washington included guests that could be considered controversial for the church.

But the person added that it would be the White House, not the Holy See, that would find it embarrassing if the welcome party, which will partly be held on the South Lawn and will include 15,000 guests, looked like a political stunt.

This corresponds to my sense of Pope Francis, who seems to relish reaching out to groups and leaders not usually favorably disposed to the Catholic Church and is noted for his graciousness. Any attempt to embarrass the Pope will backfire.

Other Catholics concur. San Diegan Maria Capossere-Belflower says she worries that Obama is, “is setting him up to make him look like a fool in the eyes of the faithful”. She is holding her breath for the duration of the papal visit.

Long-time Catholic Duane Uptain asserts that Pope Francis will behave with the humility and decorum we have come to expect.

But it certainly won’t be lost on him that the President is going out of his way to use him as a political pawn, and is attempting to force him to appear as if he approves of such lifestyles, even though the church teaches they are not righteous in essence. Francis is not stupid.

However, Obama isn’t the only source of anger…many Catholics are upset over the Pope’s ignoring dissidents in Cuba in the first leg of this American tour. Cuban-American talk show host Silvio Canto, Jr. has these observations:

As I hear from Cubans in the island, there were many who put a lot of faith in Pope Francis. They thought that the intervention of the pope would put pressure on the Castro regime to make changes, from freedom of the press to more tolerance of the Catholic Church.

In the meantime, the regime has arrested 50 of “Las Damas de blanco,” or the ladies who dress in white and march every Sunday after Mass for the release of political prisoners.

It’s hard to believe that Pope Francis will not meet with these ladies. They are not violent. They are devout Catholics. They are the wives and mothers of political prisoners.

Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998, praying for more freedom and peace for its people. The Cuban people are still waiting. That Pope Francis ignored the dissidents does not bode well that anything will change in the near future.

Pope Francis has a busy itinerary, with stops in New York City and Philadelphia after the nation’s capital. Personally, I am bracing myself for his address to the United Nations, where he is planning to talk about his climate change encyclical.

Others have their own issues with the papal agenda. Native Americans are already protesting the canonization of Junipero Serra, based on brutal conversion tactics!

My climate forecast for the remainder of the visit is warmth from the Holy Father, with a significant chance for demonstrations, politicization, and drama.