Rumors of Pope Francis’ health boil over in Italian media

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ArtJamz Paint The Pope Class painting. Photo courtesy of ArtJamz

ArtJamz Paint The Pope Class painting. Photo courtesy of ArtJamz

Pope Francis talks aboard the papal plane while en route to Italy September 28, 2015. Photo by Tony Gentile courtesy of Reuters

Pope Francis talks aboard the papal plane while en route to Italy on Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Tony Gentile, courtesy of Reuters

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Conspiracy theories worthy of a Dan Brown novel sprouted in the Italian media on Thursday (Oct. 22), with accusations that Pope Francis‘ enemies were looking to undermine him after a newspaper reported he had a brain tumor.

The Vatican angrily denied Wednesday’s story, calling it irresponsible and inexcusable, but rather than fading out of sight, the saga has inflated into a cloak-and-dagger whodunnit.

“Who wants the pope dead,” the main headline in Il Giornale newspaper said. La Repubblica and La Stampa, both respected dailies, wrote of a “shadow of a plot” on their front pages.

Most papers concluded that the story was false. But rather than dismissing it as a journalistic error, commentators and churchmen in the land that gave the world Machiavelli, the master of political cunning, looked for hidden intrigue.

The common denominator was that the pope‘s foes within the Vatican and the Catholic Church want to weaken his authority as a pivotal meeting of world bishops on family issues nears its end on Sunday.

READ: Pope Francis has a brain tumor? Sharp denials amid synod silly season

La Repubblica quoted Argentine Bishop Victor Manuel Fernandez as fearing a well-planned “apocalyptic strategy” against Francis by conservatives who want to destabilize the church and block his attempts to change it.

Leading political columnist Massimo Franco wrote in Corriere della Sera daily that the story was probably “hatched in the most murky Vatican underground and was aimed at de-legitimizing the pontiff.”

La Stampa called the saga part of a “calumny to block change.”

It all stemmed from a report in Quotidiano Nazionale that a Japanese doctor had secretly visited the Vatican in January to examine the pope and concluded that he had a benign tumor that could be treated without surgery.

The Vatican issued three detailed denials and the doctor, Takanori Fukushima, released a statement through his office in North Carolina that said: “I have never medically examined the pope. These stories are completely false.”

Fukushima’s office said he shook the pope‘s hand alongside thousands of people at a general audience, but nothing more.

Quotidiano Nazionale said on Thursday it stuck by its story.

But the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the timing of “false news” was fishy. “The moment chosen unmasks an attempt to raise a cloud of dust in order to manipulate.”

“Some, both inside and outside the church, are nervous about the outcome of the synod,” said German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a progressive close to the pope.

“It’s clear that some people don’t like this pope … but the pope is in good shape and the attempt will be in vain,” he told Corriere della Sera.

Conservatives at the gathering oppose changes to doctrine on issues such as how to minister to homosexuals and divorced Catholics by showing more mercy and less condemnation.

The pope has said he wants to show more mercy without changing fundamental rules.

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  • Shoshiru Honda

    The Pope probably does not have a brain tumor, but in good health he’s not.
    I watched a video clip of his latest Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. The camera caught him for a second holding his head and squirming in pain. The expression on his face was of agony. No one who is well sits and does that! Granted, it lasted only seconds, but it showed he’s not doing all that well. Reports from some Bishops at the Synod reported that he looked very pale and exhausted most of his appearances.
    He’s going to be 79. He’ll either die, or maybe even resign, in the next 1-2 years.

  • Dominic

    The Pope is 79 and has one lung. Of course he’s not in perfect health. Looking pretty good though for an “old man”.
    We all get closer to death every day we wake up.

  • Betty Clermont

    “Change the church”? In over 2 1/2 years and after two synods, a miniscule number (i.e. divorced, civilly remarried and who care) of Catholics may now consult with their pastors before participating in their parish, their annulments can be decided by one instead of two tribunals (did the two ever disagree?), and priests can now forgive abortion (was it ever not so?). The latter was an excuse for this pope to grant faculties to the neo-fascist Society of St. Pius X.
    This pope first created a Secretariat for (his) Economy and then a Secretariat for (PR) Communications just to show us his priorities.