Vatican denies pope is in ill health

Published 10:07 am Friday, October 23, 2015

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Wednesday denied Pope Francis is in ill health, saying his head is “absolutely perfect” after an Italian newspaper reported he has a small, curable brain tumor. The Japanese brain cancer specialist identified in the report as having made the diagnosis denied having ever examined the pontiff.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the report in the National Daily was “completely unfounded and seriously irresponsible,” as well as “absolutely inexcusable and unconscionable.” The Vatican newspaper suggested the timing of the publication smacked of an attempt to manipulate the outcome of a hotly contested meeting on family issues at the Vatican.

Citing unnamed nursing sources, the National Daily said the 78-year-old pope had been examined by a Japanese brain cancer specialist, Dr. Takanori Fukushima, who determined that the small dark spot on Francis’ brain was a tumor that could be treated without surgery. It said Fukushima had traveled to the Vatican from a clinic in Pisa to examine the pope.

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The ANSA news agency, citing unnamed sources in Pisa, said Fukushima traveled to the Vatican in January and diagnosed the pope then.

In a statement issued late Wednesday by Duke University in North Carolina, Fukushima said: “I have never medically examined the pope. These stories are completely false.”

Lombardi dismissed the reports to journalists Wednesday, issuing three separate and increasingly exasperated denials as the day wore on and after consulting with the pope himself, who appeared in fine form during his weekly general audience.

Lombardi said no Japanese doctor had visited the pope, the pope had not traveled to Pisa for treatment, that no helicopters had landed in the Vatican from the outside and that no tests as described in the newspaper had been performed on the pope.