The Vatican has said claims in this morning’s Italian newspapers that Pope Francis has a brain tumour are “groundless”.
"The Pope is carrying out his activity with his usual high level of intensity. Spreading unfounded news is gravely irresponsible and is not worthy of attention," Federico Lombardi, spokesman for Pope Francis, said in a statement.
Quotidiano Nazionale, an Italian daily tabloid newspaper, said that Francis was flown to a hospital in Barbaricina, near Pisa, to be seen by a specialist “some time ago”.
There he was diagnosed as having a small benign tumour on the brain that was treateable without the need of an operation.
The newspaper said this morning that it is standing by its story and that their source was someone inside the hospital. He was reported to have been seen by Japanese specialist Professor Takanori Fukushima who is associated with the San Rossore di Barbarcina clinic near Pisa.
Andrea Cagnini, the Director of Quotidiano Nazionale, said: “It is understandable and to be expected that the Holy See would deny the story. We delayed the publication of this news for a long time in order to check it out. We have not the slightest doubt about its veracity. We debated at length as to whether we should publish it or not.
"In the end we decided that that which applies to a Head of State or Government also applies to the Pope – the enormous public responsibilities of such people weigh heavily and lead us to conclude that the right to privacy is less important than the right of public opinion to be informed.”
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Pope Francis sparked rumours about his health last year when he told a gathering of pensioners in the Italian seaside town of Ostia that he was “a little bit old, a little bit sick”.
A year prior to that he told reporters on the way back from a trip to Korea that he did not expect to be Pope for too long:
“I know this [his papacy] will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father,” he said.
Francis is known to suffer from a bad knee and sciatica, a nerve condition that can radiate pain from the lower back down the hips and to the legs.
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