Pope Francis outlines hopes for church reform as meetings with cardinals begin

Eight cardinals appointed by Pope Francis are meeting at the Vatican to revise the church’s constitution, with the pope saying that he wants a missionary church with a modern spirit that gives hope to the poor, young and elderly.

In a lengthy interview with the editor of Rome daily La Repubblica published Tuesday, Francis denounced the "Vatican-centric" nature of the Holy See, explained his affinity for his namesake St. Francis and described how he was "invaded by anxiety" after he was elected, but then excused himself from the Sistine Chapel, closed his eyes and was filled with a light that enabled him to accept the job.

Francis and the cardinals will meet from Oct. 1-3. After the meetings, Francis will review proposals for changes to the constitution, according to Rome Reports.

But no decisions are expected this week from the talks, and the pope has said reform takes time.

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras said before the meetings that the group has received suggestions on Vatican reform from around the world, The Telegraph reports.

The current church constitution was drawn up in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, who will be declared a saint in April.

Maradiaga said in a television interview that the old “constitution is over.”

"Now it is something different. We need to write something different,” he added, according to The Telegraph.

The worldwide church reform group We Are Church has written Francis asking for greater say among lay Catholics about the selection of bishops and for church officials to be removed from office if they mishandled cases of sexually abusive priests.

"He has been reaching out to atheists, gays and others. He wants dialogue. We want that too," organizer Rene Reid said in a statement.

Conservatives and traditionalists, however, have reacted with dismay and downright alarm at the direction Francis has taken, particularly in the interview with the Jesuit-run La Civilta Cattolica, in which he bemoaned the church's obsession with "small-minded rules."

The seven other cardinals who will attend the meetings are Francisco Javier Errazuriz from Chile, Oswald Gracias from India, Reinhard Marx from Germany, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya from Congo, George Pell from Australia, Sean Patrick O’Malley from the United States and Giuseppe Bertello of Italy, according to Rome Reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.