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.
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.
Some Catholic leaders ‑ particularly in the US but also some others around the world ‑ have accused the Pope of diluting their faith, and have even called for his resignation.
They are unhappy with his stances on the environment and immigration. But in particular they are opposed to his moves to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to take Communion.
Pope Francis says he has praised "constructive criticism", but not "those who smile while stabbing him in the back".