UPDATE 3-Vatican Denies Italian Report Pope Francis Has Brain Tumour

Wednesday, 21 October 2015 08:41 AM

(Adds Vatican saying pope in good health, more detailed denial)

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The Vatican denied an Italian newspaper report on Wednesday that Pope Francis has a benign brain tumour, saying the 78-year-old pontiff was in good health and denouncing the article as utterly reprehensible.

In one of three increasingly tough denials issued as the story spread around the world, the Vatican called the report in Quotidiano Nazionale daily "a grave act of irresponsibility, absolutely inexcusable and unconscionable".

Francis held his weekly general audience before tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square and afterwards returned to a three-week gathering of Roman Catholic bishops, which he has been attending daily.

Quotidiano Nazionale, a national paper based in central Italy, reported on its front page on Wednesday that a Japanese doctor and his team had secretly flown from Tuscany to the Vatican on a helicopter bearing the Holy See's white-and-yellow flag to examine the pope "some months ago".

The article, under the headline "The Pope is Sick", said the Argentine pontiff was diagnosed with "a small dark spot on the brain", but that it was curable without surgery.

"I am able to confirm that the pope is in good health," chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement that he read out during a news conference on another topic.

He said he had checked the allegations directly with the pope and other Vatican officials.

"No Japanese doctor has visited the Pope in the Vatican and there have been no examinations of the type indicated in the article," he said, also dismissing the story about the helicopter.

A spokeswoman for the San Rossore clinic in Pisa, from where the newspaper said the helicopter took off, said she could not comment on the report and directed enquiries to the director. The director's office said he was not available.

Quotidiano Nazionale named the Japanese doctor as Takanori Fukushima, who normally works in the United States. He could not be immediately reached for comment early Wednesday.

Since the start of the year, Francis has made trips to Asia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Latin America, the United States, and a number of visits in Rome and Italy.

In a television interview last March on the second anniversary of his election, Francis said he believed his pontificate would be short and that he would be ready to resign like his predecessor Pope Benedict rather than leading the Church for life..

The pope has appeared to be in good health in recent months apart from some leg pain due to sciatica, for which he undergoes regular physical therapy in the Vatican.

The pope lost part of one lung to disease when he was a young man. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Crispian Balmer)

© 2019 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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