Vatican spokesman says claims pope has tumor ‘entirely unfounded’

VATICAN CITY — Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said an Italian newspaper’s claims about the pope’s health were “entirely unfounded.”

Man reads Italian newspaper in Rome, Oct. 21, claiming Pope Francis has a benign brain tumor. The Vatican spokesman said claims that the pope has a tumor are "entirely unfounded." (CNS photo | Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Man reads Italian newspaper in Rome, Oct. 21, claiming Pope Francis has a benign brain tumor. The Vatican spokesman said claims that the pope has a tumor are “entirely unfounded.” (CNS photo | Tony Gentile, Reuters)

After checking with the pope himself and other sources, Fr. Lombardi told reporters “the pope enjoys good health” and that the unsubstantiated news report was “a serious act of irresponsibility, absolutely unjustifiable and unspeakable.”

The “Quotidiano Nazionale” reported Oct. 21 that an unnamed nurse at a clinic in Pisa told the paper that the pope visited the clinic several months ago and that tests revealed a “small dark spot” — “a small brain tumor.”

The paper reported that the anonymous source said the condition could be taken care of without surgery and that the specialist following the case was Dr. Takanori Fukushima, a neurosurgeon who teaches at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and travels to clinics in Japan and Pisa.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief told the Italian news agency ANSA that they waited until now to publish the report because they were unsure about making it public, but then decided to because the pope is a public figure.

Further calling into question the veracity of the report, Dr. Giulio Maira, an Italian neurosurgeon who was interviewed by the same paper under the headline “Pope Francis has a tumor,” called Fr. Lombardi by telephone from New York City Oct. 21 to say the reporter who called him had only asked him generic questions about brain tumors. No reference was made to the pope and that he was “tricked,” the doctor told Father Lombardi.

Fr. Lombardi had said in a written statement earlier in the day, “The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the pope is carrying out his very intense activity in a totally normal way.”