ROME — Members of the Legionaries of Christ will begin their extraordinary general chapter Jan. 8 to elect new leaders and approve a new constitution, the key step in an effort to renew the order after revelations about the misconduct of their founder.

Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, appointed by retired Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to govern the order, announced the date of the opening of general chapter in a letter to the 953 priests and the hundreds seminarians of the Legion of Christ Oct. 4.

The chapter, he wrote, "comes at the end of a long journey of spiritual renewal and will have as its principal purpose the conclusion of revising the constitutions," which set out the nature and purpose of a religious order, the way new members are brought in and formed, and govern all aspects of the members' life together.

The chapter should conclude by the end of February, the cardinal wrote, but it will be up to the chapter delegates to establish a firm timetable. The constitutions adopted by the delegates — expected to be about 60 priests — must be approved by Pope Francis before they take effect.

Pope Benedict had ordered the reform and reorganization of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, its lay branch, after revelations that their founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, had fathered children and sexually abused seminarians.

In a separate letter to the consecrated members of the related Regnum Christi movement, it was announced that the general assembly for the consecrated men would be held Nov. 25-Dec. 1 and for the consecrated women Dec. 2-15.

Legionary Father Benjamin Clariond, spokesman for the order, said that as of Dec. 31, the consecrated men of Regnum Christi numbered 85, and there were 655 consecrated women.

A meeting of the priests, consecrated members and the thousands of laypeople who belong to Regnum Christi will be held sometime after the Legionaries' general assembly to finalize a document explaining how all the branches of the movement work together, Father Clariond said.