Women in Music 2016

Elton John Loves Pope Francis: 'He Is My Hero'

Joseph Guay
Elton John

For Sir Elton John, his An Enduring Vision benefit in New York City on Tuesday night was an opportunity to not only raise money for his AIDS Foundation, but also to celebrate marriage equality. 

Wearing a sequined black blazer and sitting down often since he was recovering from knee surgery, John noted the growing acceptance of gay marriage throughout the U.S., and applauded Pope Francis for embracing tolerance and compassion, as shown when he asked about gay marriage. "'Who am I to judge?' What are we waiting for? Make him a saint now. He did more with those five words than the last five popes," he said on the Cipriani Wall Street stage. "He is my hero."

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Still, he called for an end to the AIDS epidemic. "The main obstacle is not a virus, the main obstacle is people, people who continue to discriminate and marginalize people with HIV. ... What I've learned from fighting AIDS for the past 22 years is the people who need the most compassion are the ones who receive the least."

The evening was hosted by Anderson Cooper, who initially flirted to get attendees seated, "It's always the cute gay guys who are the last ones standing up!" He was honored to emcee the event for a crowd of "the greatest broadcaster" Matt Lauer and Neil Patrick Harris, "the greatest host of every event" including the upcoming Oscars: "I will finally be able to watch it all the way through!"

John and David Furnish gave Enduring Vision Awards to friends and longtime foundation supporters: real estate developer and restaurateur Charles Hendon, White Cube art gallery founder Jay Jopling, Nathalie and Pablo Salame of Goldman Sachs, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

THERE'S MORE: Read the full story on THR.com