[The Pope’s Stone, Part One discussed the theft and destruction of a block of marble sent by Pope Pius IX in 1853 to be placed in the Washington Monument, under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This Part Two recounts some inflammatory background to that embarrassing episode in American history in the form of the perilous visit of a Vatican prelate just before the destruction of the stone.]
The announcement of his upcoming visit was short and succinct, in no way foreshadowing the waves of bigotry, chaos, and violence, which over the following seven months would accompany his progress through America. Baltimore’s Sunof June 27, 1853 reported simply:
"Monsignor Bedini, Archbishop of Thebes, former Commissary Extraordinary of the Pontifical Government to the Legations, has left Rome as special Envoy of His Holiness to the United States. He is charged by the Holy Father to pay a visit to the government at Washington, and also to hold interviews with different Prelates of the Church in the United States, and to acquire the most exact information respecting the interests and condition of the Catholic Church in this country. After making as along a visit as may be of advantage in the United States, Monsignor Bedini will go to Brazil, where he is to reside as Apostolic Nuncio near that Government."
Gaetano Bedini was born on May 15, 1806 in Sinigaglia, Italy, also the birthplace of Pius IX, not far from the Adriatic. After his ordination in 1828, Bedini was awarded a Doctor Utriusque Juris (i.e. doctorate in civil and canon law) and became secretary to Cardinal Altieri, Papal Nuncio at Vienna. In 1846 he was sent by the Pope to serve as Apostolic Internuncio [a sort of junior ambassador] to the Imperial Court of Brazil, where in the words of J.F. Connelley