Within weeks, the Vatican said in a statement Thursday, bishops' conferences around the world will be receiving preparatory documents for the 2015 synod.
"Francis wants to get things moving, to push processes forward. The real work is about to begin," Cardinal Reinhard Marx told a German newspaper.
Pope Francis on Monday waded into the controversial debate over the origins of human life, saying the big bang theory did not contradict the role of a divine creator, but even required it.
The pope was addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which gathered at the Vatican to discuss "Evolving Concepts of Nature."
"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said the church needs to take a closer look at the broader family environment instead of focusing solely on gay relationships and divorced and remarried Catholics.
Questions over the tone presented by the synod toward gay people dominated conversations Thursday, after the Vatican seemingly tried to water down its message of openness.
Both Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich are campaigning for a new look at marriage and the family at the ongoing synod in Rome.
In late 1994, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër was preparing for a slow transition into retirement. He had completed eight years as archbishop of Vienna, and the previous October he had turned 75. He submitted his mandatory letter of resignation, but Pope John Paul II asked him to stay on.
Perspective: The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI caught the world by surprise, but after the shock wore off, it didn't seem all that surprising.
"It is fascinating to see how Pope Francis is encouraging, reviving and renewing the church," Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said.
Pope Francis reconfirmed Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and German Bishop Josef Clemens as secretary.
Among the 14 new members named Thursday were Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia; Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila, Philippines; Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna; and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, who is also part of the pope's eight-member Council of Cardinals that advises the pope on reorganizing the Roman Curia.