On his flight back from Africa Pope Francis, held a press conference saying he is “not afraid of schisms” but “there is always the option for schism.”

The Holy Father made his comments Tuesday aboard the papal plane departing from Mozambique returning to Rome after a five day papal trip to visit three countries in southeast Africa.

Pope Francis commented on criticism of his papacy, saying it comes from “from everywhere, not only from the Americans, even the Curia.” However, he recognizes the advantages of critique.

“First of all, criticism always helps, always. When someone receives criticism, that persons needs to do a self-critique right away and say: is this true or not? To what point? And I always benefit from criticism. Sometimes it makes you angry, but there are advantages.”

He said he appreciates fair and honest criticism, not the kind given “without wanting to hear a response” or “without getting into dialogue,” when they “stab you in the back.” Such criticism he says is only designed to further a push towards schism.

“I do not like it when criticism stays under the table: they smile at you letting you see their teeth and then they stab you in the back. That is not fair, it is not human. To criticize without wanting to hear a response and without getting into dialogue is not to have the good of the Church at heart, it is chasing after a fixed idea, to change the Pope or to create a schism.”

Pope Francis said that within the Church “there is always the option for schism, an option that the Lord leaves to human freedom” but that he is “not afraid of schisms.”

“I pray that there will be none, because what is at stake is people’s spiritual health. Let there be dialogue, let there be correction if there is an error, but the schismatic path is not Christian. Let’s think about the beginnings of the Church, how it began with many schisms, one after the other: Arians, Gnostics, Monophysites.”

He called schism an “elitist separation stemming from an ideology detached from doctrine.” Despite following in the social teachings on Pope Saint John Paul II, his critics call him a “communist” because of “pseudo-schismatic Christian developments that will end badly. ”

“For example, the social things that I say are the same things that John Paul II said, the same things! I copy him. But they say: the Pope is a communist… Ideologies enter into doctrine and when doctrine slips into ideology that’s where there’s the possibility of a schism.”

Pope Francis made similar comments regarding criticism on his flight to Mozambique at the beginning of his trip last Wednesday. He said that “it’s an honor when the Americans attack me.” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni later elaborated on the Holy Father’s comments.

“In an informal context, the pope wanted to say that he always considers criticisms an honor, particularly when they come from authoritative thinkers — in this case from an important nation.”

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