Vatican denies report that Pope has brain tumor

(CNN)The Vatican is forcefully denying a report in an Italian newspaper that Pope Francis is ill with a brain tumor.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said that he had personally spoken to the Pope, who "is in good health."

Lombardi called the Italian article "inexcusable and unconscionable."

In a front page story published on Wednesday, the dailyQuotidiano Nazionale claimed that a Japanese neurosurgeon had flown by helicopter "some months ago" from a private clinic in Pisa to the Vatican to examine the Pope and determined that he had a "small brain tumor, which can be cured without surgery."

The article identifies the surgeon as Dr. Takanori Fukushima, a neurosurgeon at Duke University who is a consultant at San Rossore di Barbaricina clinic near Pisa, Italy.

In a statement, Fukushima told CNN: "I have never medically examined the Pope. These stories are completely false."

Lombardi concurred, saying: "No Japanese doctor has visited the Pope in the Vatican and there have been no examinations of the type indicated in the article."

The Quotidiano Nazionale claims that Fukushima traveled on a Vatican helicopter.

Pictures from Fukushima's blog show him in a helicopter and claim he was on his way from Pisa to the Vatican in January 2015.

But Lombardi said, "There have been no arrivals of external parties in the Vatican by helicopter; similarly there were no arrivals of this type during the month of January."

The Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit journalist in Rome who knows Francis well, tweeted a picture of him walking with the Pope, saying that "Peter, the rock," a common term for pontiffs, is "rock solid and in good shape."

Pope Francis is known to have experienced leg pain due to sciatica, for which he undergoes physical therapy at the Vatican. He had part of one lung removed when he was a young man.

The Italian report comes at a tumultuous time for the Vatican, where some 270 bishops are meeting through Sunday to debate changes to church practices regarding modern families. A number of conservative bishops have criticized both the Pope and the process of the meeting, called a synod, arguing that church teachings on marriage and family life cannot and should not change.

The bishops will submit a final report to Francis on Saturday.

CNN's Daniel Burke and Debra Goldschmidt contributed to this story.

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