Pope Francis has accused his critics of stabbing him in the back, and said he is “not afraid” of the Catholic Church splitting.
Speaking after a trip to Africa, the Pope took issue with conservative clergymen who have criticised him.
Those men do not “want good for the Church”, but only care about “changing popes, changing styles, creating a schism”, he said.
US Catholic leaders have attacked the Pope in the past for his views.
It is the first time he has spoken so openly about the chance of a split in the Church, which has more than one billion followers worldwide.