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”.
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 a cover story that a Japanese doctor and his team had been 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”.
“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, saying he had checked directly with the pope and other Vatican officials.
The report named the Japanese doctor as Takanori Fukushima, who usually work in the United States but Lori Radcliffe, practice administrator for Fukushima at the Carolina Neuroscience Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, described the report as “absolutely false”.
In November, Pope Francis will make his first trip to Africa, meet slum dwellers and refugees and call for dialogue between Christians and Muslims on his visit to Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic.