VATICAN CITY - Pope John XXIII, who will next year be made a saint with John Paul II, surprised many by leading the Catholic Church to more open relations with the world.
When "Good Pope John" became head of the Catholic Church on October 28, 1958 at the age of 77, many thought he would be a simple caretaker.
He had a determined and progressive character, however, inviting comparisons by Vatican watchers to the reform-minded Pope Francis.
Less than three months after being elected, John XXIII announced preparations for the Second Vatican Council, a rare global gathering of Catholic bishops, which opened in October 1962.
Pope John did not live to see the end of the council, dying on June 3, 1963 of complications linked to stomach cancer less than two months after he completed the landmark papal encyclical, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth).
It was addressed "to all men of good will" and not only Catholics, and was in part a reaction to the prevailing political situation in the midst of the Cold War.
The Vatican Council led to major reforms within the church, including greater participation by lay members in the liturgy and the possibility of celebrating mass in languages other than Latin.
"I wish to open the church's window so that we may see what is happening outside and so the world may see what is happening within," pope John wrote.
The man who would be pope was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Sotto il Monte, northern Italy on November 25, 1881.
Ordained in 1904, he was called to Rome in 1921 to head missionary activities in Italy.