Pope's tumour 'should have been found sooner'

ROME (Reuter) - Pope John Paul was recovering so well from intestinal surgery to remove a large benign tumour that he got out of bed yesterday, walked several steps and sat in an armchair. Meanwhile, a controversy arose over whether the tumour could have been detected sooner.

The Vatican disclosed that before entering hospital the 72-year-old Pope asked for and received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. The next medical bulletin is due to be issued on Saturday.

Massimo Crespi, head of a cancer institute at Rome's La Sapienza University, implicitly criticised doctors for not detecting the tumour earlier. 'It was a lesion that was taken out in time but surely had been there for some time . . . it was there for years,' Professor Crespi, who had no role in treating the Pope, told Italian radio. He expressed 'incredulity' that a person of stature like the Pope 'was clearly not given preventive care'.

But the chief Vatican spokesman and the doctors who operated on the Pope rejected the criticisms, which appeared to be directed at the Pope's private doctors at the Vatican.