VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis on Thursday urged his cardinals to co-operate in reforming the outdated and dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy, saying the overhaul will help him govern the Catholic Church better and spread the faith more effectively.

Francis summoned cardinals from around the world to hear proposals for revamping the central government of the 1.2-billion-strong church. The proposals include merging offices and reducing waste.

Opening the meetings, Francis said the aim was to encourage greater harmony and collaboration in "absolute transparency," to help the church spread the faith and reach out to others.

"Certainly, reaching that goal won't be easy. It needs time, determination and above all the collaboration of everyone," he said.

Francis made clear what he considered was wrong with the Vatican Curia last December, when he ticked off 15 ailments that can afflict its members. He cited "spiritual Alzheimer's," lusting for power and the "terrorism of gossip" as diseases that must be cured for the church to be a healthier and holier place.

Francis was elected two years ago on a mandate from cardinals to reform the Vatican hierarchy, which during the final year of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy was exposed publicly as being a place of petty, back-biting turf battles, beset by cronyism, corruption and waste.

He set out within a month of his election to name a group of cardinals from each continent to help rewrite the main blueprint of the Holy See government, a project he has said won't be finished before 2016.

He has taken steps in the meantime, though, creating an economy ministry with broad powers to ensure tighter and more transparent finances across the Vatican. But in a sign of growing pains that will likely only grow more pronounced as the reform progresses, even that office has been slow to get its statutes approved amid disputes over the scope of its authority.