Vatican denies Italian media report that pope has brain tumor

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Vatican Denies Report That Pope Francis Has a Brain Tumor

The Vatican denied an Italian newspaper report on Wednesday that Pope Francis has a benign brain tumor, saying the 78-year-old pontiff was in good health and denouncing the article as "inexcusable".

In one of three increasingly tough denials issued as the story spread around the world, the Vatican called the report in Quotidiano Nazionale daily "a grave act of irresponsibility, absolutely inexcusable and unconscionable".

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"Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the pope is carrying out his very intense activity in a totally normal way," he said.

Francis later held his weekly general audience before tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square and was due to return to a three-week gathering of Roman Catholic bishops from around the world, which he has been attending daily.

See photos of Pope Francis' historic trip to the US:

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Pope's visit to the U.S. (Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia)
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Vatican denies Italian media report that pope has brain tumor
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Mark Perez wears a button bearing the image of Pope Francis while waiting for him to arrive for a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington September 24, 2015, in Washington, DC. The charity serves dinner to about 300 homeless people daily at the site, and it will serve a meal during the pope's visit. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis visits Our Lady Queen of Angels School September 25, 2015 in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The pope is in New York on a two-day visit carrying out a number of engagements, including a papal motorcade through Central Park and celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Kena Betancur-Pool/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis waves to the crowd gathered on the route to the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Pope is concluding his U.S. tour by spending two days in Philadelphia, having visited Washington D.C. and New York City. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
WYNNEWOOD, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets seminarians as he walks the loggia to his address to the Bishops at St. Martin of Tours Chapel at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, September 27, 2015 in Wynnewwod, Pennsylvania. After visiting Washington and New York City, Pope Francis concludes his tour of the U.S. with events in Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday. ((Photo by Tom Gralish-Pool/Getty Images)
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Francis held his weekly general audience before tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square and afterwards returned to a three-week gathering of bishops, which he has been attending daily.

Quotidiano Nazionale reported on its front page on Wednesday that a Japanese doctor and his team had secretly flown from Tuscany to the Vatican on a helicopter bearing the Holy See's white-and-yellow flag to examine the pope "some months ago".

Under the headline "The Pope is Sick", it said the Argentine pontiff was diagnosed with "a small dark spot on the brain", but that it was curable without surgery.

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"I am able to confirm that the pope is in good health," chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement he read out during a news conference on another topic.

He said he had checked directly with the pope and other Vatican officials.

"No Japanese doctor has visited the pope in the Vatican and there have been no examinations of the type indicated in the article," he said, dismissing the story about the helicopter.

Quotidiano Nazionale named the Japanese doctor as Takanori Fukushima, who usually works in the United States. He could not be immediately reached for comment early on Wednesday.

Lori Radcliffe, practice administrator for Fukushima at the Carolina Neuroscience Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, described the report as "absolutely false".

She told Reuters Fukushima saw the pope and shook his hand alongside thousands of people this year at a general audience at the Vatican but had never treated or evaluated him.

This year, Francis has made trips to Asia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Latin America, the United States and in Italy.

In a television interview last March on the second anniversary of his election, Francis said he believed his pontificate would be short and he would be ready to resign like his predecessor Pope Benedict rather than lead the church for life..

The pope has appeared in good health in recent months apart from some leg pain due to sciatica, for which he undergoes regular therapy. He lost part of one lung to disease as a young man.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos of the mass held at Madison Square Garden:

15 PHOTOS
Pope Francis: Mass at Madison Square Garden
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Vatican denies Italian media report that pope has brain tumor
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Participants listen to Pope Francis as he celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The Pope ends his New York visit after a day of activities with the mass at Madison Square Garden and leaves for Philadelphia in the morning. (Photo by Alejandra Villa - Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: The clergy and Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The Pope ends his New York visit after a day of activities with the mass at Madison Square Garden and leaves for Philadelphia in the morning. (Photo by Alejandra Villa - Pool/Getty Images)
Pope Francis celebrating Mass Madison Square Garden September 25, 2015 in New York. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is visiting New York City during a six-day tour of the United States, that included a stop in Washington D.C. and includes one in Philadelphia. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives to lead mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The pope is visiting New York City during a six-day tour of the United States, that included a stop in Washington D.C. and includes one in Philadelphia. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis reads his homily while celebrating Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Pope Francis is visiting New York City during a six-day tour of the United States, with stops in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Julie Jacobson-Pool/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Madison Square Garden to celebrate Mass on September 25, 2015 in New York City. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis reads his homily while celebrating Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Pope Francis is visiting New York City during a six-day tour of the United States, with stops in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Julie Jacobson-Pool/Getty Images)
Pope Francis enters Madison Square Garden to lead mass on September 25, 2015 in New York City. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Pope Francis is visiting New York City during a six-day tour of the United States, with stops in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Julie Jacobson-Pool/Getty Images)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. The Pope is on a six-day visit to the U.S., with stops in Washington DC, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo by Michael Appleton-Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Participants watch as Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Pope Francis is visiting New York City during a six-day tour of the United States, with stops in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Julie Jacobson-Pool/Getty Images)
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