VATICAN CITY (RNS) – On his flight back from a weeklong trip to Africa, Pope Francis answered the small yet vocal crowd of critics of his papacy, saying that while he hopes for dialogue he’s not afraid of a schism.

“There has always been a schismatic option in the church, always,” Francis said while answering a question from English speaking reporters on Tuesday (Sept. 10).

“I am not afraid of schisms. I pray that they won’t happen, because the spiritual health of a lot of people is at stake,” he added.

On Wednesday, the pope made headlines when he told French journalist Nicolas Seneze, “It is an honor when Americans attack me.” The journalist had presented the pope with a copy of his new book,

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