VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, saying he does not want a ‘‘Vatican-centric’’ church concerned about itself, appealed Tuesday for a missionary church that reaches out to the poor, the young, the elderly, and even to nonbelievers. That’s the vision he laid out as he opened a landmark meeting on reforming the 2,000-year-old institution.
Francis convened the inaugural meeting of his eight cardinal advisers for three days of brainstorming on revamping the antiquated Vatican bureaucracy and other reforms. The move fulfills a key mandate of the cardinals who elected him: They wanted a pope who would involve local church leaders in helping make decisions about the 1.2-billion strong church.
The closed-door meeting got underway against the backdrop of one of the most tangible signs that change is already afoot: The secretive Vatican bank, under investigation for alleged money-laundering by Italian prosecutors, released its first-ever annual report Tuesday, the latest step toward financial transparency championed by Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Net earnings at the bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, rose fourfold to $116.95 million in 2012, the report said. More than half of that was given to the pope for his charitable works.
Francis has put the bank on notice, forming a commission of inquiry to look into its activities amid accusations that its clients may have used its lax controls to launder money.
Francis’ decision to name the eight cardinals from around the world as a permanent advisory panel represents the most significant sign that he wants to shake things up at the Vatican.
The eight cardinals include Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston; Cardinals Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, all of whom head bishops conferences in their regions.
It’s unclear how this parallel cabinet will work with the Vatican bureaucracy that constitutes a pope’s primary cabinet, known as the Vatican Curia. A scandal over leaked papal documents last year showed the Curia to be a dysfunctional warren of political infighting and turf battles, fueling calls for reform from the cardinals.
On the same day the inaugural meeting started, Rome daily La Repubblica published an interview with Francis, in which he denounced the ‘‘Vatican-centric’’ nature of the Holy See administration and acknowledged popes had been infatuated with the pomp of the office. ‘‘Heads of the church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers,’’ Francis said. ‘‘The court is the leprosy of the papacy.’’