Vatican Denies Report That Pope Francis Has A Brain Tumor

The Vatican is strongly denying a report in an Italian newspaper that Pope Francis has a small, curable brain tumor, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting.

This week, Italian tabloid Quatidiano Nazionale (The Daily National) published the attention-grabbing headline “Pope Francis Is Sick,” citing unnamed sources that claimed the Pontiff had been diagnosed with a curable brain tumor after seeking treatment at an Italian hospital.

Pope Francis, the report claimed, was flown by helicopter to the San Rossore di Barbaricina hospital near Pisa to seek the services of Dr. Takanori Fukishima, a Japanese brain cancer specialist. The initial report did not specify when the pope had supposedly gone to see the Japanese doctor, only saying “some time ago,” according to the Helka.

The Italian report claimed that Dr. Fukishima had determined that the 78-year-old pope had a small, dark spot on his brain, which Fukishima diagnosed as a “small, curable” brain tumor that can be cured without surgery. The newspaper later amended its initial reports, saying that Dr. Fukishima had, in fact, flown to the Vatican to see the pope, not the other way around. Later corrections also indicated that the diagnosis had taken place in January.

On Wednesday, Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi called the report “completely unfounded and seriously irresponsible and not worthy of attention.”

“I can confirm that the Pope is in good health. If you were in the piazza this morning you would have seen that as well. And if you go on the trips with him, you know he has a small problem with his legs, but his head is absolutely perfect.”

The “small problem with his legs” to which Lombardi was referring is sciatica, a nerve inflammation that causes pain in the legs and can make walking painful and difficult.

Further, Lombardi insisted that no helicopters carrying anyone other than the pope had landed in the Vatican, that no Japanese doctors have seen the pope, and that no medical tests like the ones described in the report had been performed on the pontiff.

On his official Twitter feed, Pope Francis himself has not, as of this post, responded to reports that he has a brain tumor. Although he did mention cancer, rather obliquely.

Daily National editor Andrea Cangini is standing by the story, however. Cangini insists that the paper’s editorial staff had confirmed the reports months ago but still deliberated whether or not to publish it.

“Of course, we asked ourselves the question. We write today, based on reliable sources, that Pope Francis has a brain tumor, and until yesterday we wondered if it was right to, in so many ways, violate the privacy of a man – a man who, in December, will turn 78 years old. We felt that in this case that the right to privacy mattered a little less than the right of the public to be informed… We seriously questioned whether or not to publish it. We felt that what we believe is true for a head of state or government also applies to the Pope.”

The false report of a brain tumor comes at a rather “delicate” time for the pope, says the Inquirer, as the pontiff struggles with both liberal and conservative factions within the Vatican over how to properly convey and interpret the Church’s teachings and practices with regard to marriage and family issues.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]