VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork) — The Vatican is vigorously denying reports from Italian media claiming Pope Francis is sick with a small brain tumor.

An Italian newspaper reported the Pope went to a clinic several months ago. Citing an anonymous nurse at the Italian clinic, the article claimed tests revealed the pontiff had a small, curable tumor.

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The news report claimed a brain cancer specialist diagnosed the pope with a small dark spot on his brain — that could be treated without surgery, CBS2’s Dana Tyler reported.

“The news of the Pope’s health condition is totally unfounded, it is a totally irresponsible act of the Italian news agency that released this,” Vatican spokesperson Father Thomas Rosica said.

The newspaper stood by the story and said a doctor and his team secretly flew to the Vatican to examine Pope Francis several months ago.

Chief Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, insisted the medical exams described in the Italian newspaper never took place.

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“No doctor came to the Vatican, unless he was a ghost – because no one saw him,” Lombardi said.

Vatican officials pointed to the Pope’s recent trips to Cuba and the United States as proof of the 78-year-old’s vitality. Officials said that apart from a small problem in his legs, the Pope is in excellent health.

The newspaper’s editor said the publication debated for a long time before printing the news, and that it confirmed the story months ago.

The Vatican insists the story is not true.

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