VATICAN CITY, Oct. 21 (UPI & Gephardt Daily) — The Vatican is slamming an Italian newspaper for what it maintains are false reports Pope Francis is ill with a brain tumor.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who had personally spoken to the Pope, described him as being in good health and declared the article in Quotidiano Nazionale “inexcusable and unconscionable.”
The newspaper reported that a Japanese neurosurgeon and his team flew from a clinic in Pisa, Italy, to the Vatican via the Vatican’s helicopter to examine the Pope several months ago. The newspaper cited an anonymous nurse from the clinic who said tests found a small brain tumor, which could be cured without surgery.
“The news of the pope’s health condition is totally unfounded, it is a totally irresponsible act of the Italian news agency that released this,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, another spokesman for the Vatican.
Lombardi ridiculed the story described in the newspaper.
“No doctor came to the Vatican, unless he was a ghost, because no one saw him,” Lombardi said. “No Japanese doctor has visited the Pope in the Vatican and there have been no examinations of the type indicated in the article.”
The newspaper reported the neurosurgeon to be Dr. Takanori Fukushima, of Duke University and a consultant at the San Rossore di Barbaricina clinic near Pisa.
Fukushima told CNN, “I have never medically examined the Pope. These stories are completely false.”
The Vatican spokesmen said other than sciatica in his legs, the 78-year-old Pope’s recent trips to the United States and Cuba show he is in fine health.
The newspaper is standing by its report, though, saying staff confirmed the story months ago and deliberated for a long time before deciding to publish it.
Vatican sources, however, say the timing of the article is suspect. They say its release, in the final days of a three week long synod between the pope and 270 bishops, was designed to undercut the pontiff’s attempts to liberalize the Catholic Church’s stances on contentious issues such as gay marriage and divorce.
Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez told the Italian press Thursday the story was diversion intended to “discredit the one who holds the power.”