The Vatican has rejected as “seriously irresponsible” an Italian media report that says Pope Francis has a small but curable tumour on his brain.
The Quotidiano newspaper said the Pope had travelled by helicopter to Tuscany to see a world-renowned Japanese brain surgeon.
The Pope was diagnosed with a small, dark spot but did not need surgery, the paper said.
A Vatican spokesman said the report was totally unfounded.
“As everyone can see, the Pope is carrying out his extremely intense activities in an absolutely normal manner,” Father Federico Lombardi said.
Quotidiano insisted that its story was true, maintaining that the Pope had visited Prof Takanori Fukushima some months ago at the San Rossore clinic in the Barbaricina area of Pisa.
It quoted an unnamed employee at the clinic saying such a small tumour could be treated and did not need any kind of surgical intervention.
The paper’s editor, Andrea Cangini, said the denial was understandable and had been expected.
The timing of the report is seen as awkward for the Vatican, as 279 bishops from around the world approach the end of their three-week Synod on the Family.
The meeting, which ends on Saturday, is considered one of the key tests of Pope Francis’s papacy as it has wrestled with the Church’s attitude towards same-sex unions, contraception and its refusal to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to take Communion.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis, 78, indicated his papacy may last only a few years, and that he might retire like his predecessor Benedict XVI, who stepped down as pontiff in 2013.
The Pope appeared before thousands of people in St Peter’s Square as normal on Wednesday, and was due to return to the Synod later in the day.