A Vatican spokesman is condemning claims that Pope Francis has a brain tumor as being false and gravely irresponsible.
An Italian newspaper reported Wednesday that Francis has a small, dark spot on his brain, but that it could be treated and cured without surgery.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, slammed the claim as "completely unfounded and seriously irresponsible," as well as "absolutely inexcusable and unconscionable."
"I am able to confirm that the pope is in good health," Lombardi said. "I reiterate that the publication of this false information is a grave act of irresponsibility, absolutely inexcusable and unconscionable."
Quotidiano Nazionale claimed the 78-year-old pope was examined back in January at the San Rossore di Barbaricina clinic near Pisa in Tuscany by Dr. Takanori Fukushima, who discovered the reported tumor. The Japanese brain cancer specialist immediately denied ever examining the pope, but Quotidiano Nazionale editor Andrea Cangini stood by the paper's story.
"I have never medically examined the pope. These stories are completely false," Fukushima said in a statement released by North Carolina's Duke University, where he is a professor of neurosurgery.
Cangini said months of deliberation went into whether or not his paper would run the controversial story. He claims they verified information about the pope's reported illness against multiple sources.
"The diffuse opinion among the doctors who are treating this case is that surgery is unnecessary and that the problem is under control," he told The Associated Press.
Lombardi vigorously denied the claims more than once and said despite some minor leg pain due to sciatica, the pope is actually in "perfect" health.
"If you were in the piazza this morning you would have seen [good health]. 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."
Critics have called into question the timing of the brain tumor report, which comes amid a tense synod whereby 270 bishops are convening all week to discuss potential changes to Church teachings on sex, marriage, homosexuality and the modern family. A final report will be presented to the pope on Saturday.
The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano has asserted, "The timing of this reveals an intent to manipulate and create unnecessary uproar."