ROME, Jan. 4 (AP)--The surgeon who performed Pope John Paul II's 1994 hip operation denied Thursday that he had said the pontiff had Parkinson's disease.

Gianfranco Fineschi said that he was misquoted in an interview he gave to the Italian magazine, Oggi.

"I was asked if the Holy Father had Parkinson's, to which I replied, 'I cannot exclude that he suffers from a Parkinson's-like illness, but it is not in my field,'" Fineschi told The Associated Press in an interview at his house in Rome.

In Oggi, which came out on newsstands Thursday, Fineschi was quoted as giving this explanation for why the pope walks with a shuffling gait: "He does so for neurological reasons and not orthopedic."

"The medicines which he takes to treat Parkinson's disease, which is the cause of his hand tremors, in fact, have an impact on his muscle system, reducing facial movements and forcing him to take small steps," Oggi quoted Fineschi as saying.

The pope's difficulty in walking and speaking and his tremors are common symptoms of Parkinson's disease, but the Vatican has never confirmed widespread reports he suffers from the problem.

Thus the reported remarks by Fineschi, who has since retired from his surgical practice, appeared to be the first public admission by a member of the pope's medical team that John Paul suffers from Parkinson's.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, asked by The AP why the Holy See doesn't say what condition is causing the pope's symptoms, replied: "It's a question for his doctors."

The Vatican had no comment on the Oggi piece.

Navarro-Valls a few years ago said that the pope was suffering from a syndrome in a family of neurological disorders but did not name the disease.

Fineschi said that he wanted John Paul's go-ahead before making his denial to the media and had contacted the pope's secretary, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, on Thursday morning for permission to talk about the pontiff.

The surgeon told The AP that he doesn't like talking about his professional relationship with the pope, but had agreed to the interview because the Oggi interviewer was a priest.

"In the article there's a mix-up between the questions and the answers," Fineschi contended.

Oggi's editor-in-chief, Angelo Ascoli, said that they would never have taken the liberty of publishing something, especially on such a sensitive matter, "unless we were sure it was correct right down to the last comma."

Fineschi said he last met with the pope about three years ago and couldn't recall the date of his last medical exam.

"He is an 80-year-old man whose body shows the signs stress from all the operations he has had, but his intellectual capacities are intact allowing him to continue is mission," Fineschi told The AP.

The 77-year-old surgeon said the pope "needs to rest and not work so much" but "I don't think he'll ever do it."

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