Sir Elton John told a group of star-studded celebrities and donors at his annual AIDS fundraiser in New York on Tuesday that Pope Francis was his hero because of his pro-gay activism within the Catholic church.
Elton John reportedly helped raise $3.7 million while serenading guests with his classic hits at Cipriana Wall Street. Throughout the evening, the music legend spoke of his commitment to end the AIDS epidemic and also sang the praises of the Pope.
“He is a compassionate, loving man who wants everybody to be included in the love of God,” he said of Pope Francis. “It is formidable what he is trying to do against many, many people in the church that opposes. He is courageous and he is fearless, and that’s what we need in the world today… Make him a saint already, ok?”
Among the group of attendees were Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Cynthia McFadden, Al Roker, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. CNN’s Anderson Cooper acted as moderator.
Governor Cuomo was acknowledged by Elton John for his policies that favor gun control, affordable public housing, women’s rights, and his leadership in the fight for marriage equality in New York.
“We are especially grateful to the governor for working so diligently with HIV and AIDS experts and community advocates to develop a comprehensive plan to end the aids epidemic in the state of New York by the year 2020,” said the singer-songwriter.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation, established in 1992, is one of the world’s largest grant-makers for HIV and has donated more than $300 million to combat the disease through treatment and prevention programs.