ELTON John called Pope Francis a “hero” for his compassionate drive to accept gay people during the recent AIDS benefit gala dinner and concert in New York City.

“Ten years ago one of the biggest obstacles in the fight against AIDS was the Catholic church,” he said.

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“Today we have a pope that speaks out about it. He is a compassionate, loving man who wants everybody to be included in the love of God.

“It is formidable what he is trying to do against many, many people in the church that oppose [him]. He is courageous and he is fearless, and that’s what we need in the world today.”

As for the gala event itself, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was MC for the seventh time while John took the stage for an intimate solo performance of Tiny Dancer and Your Song.

Items auctioned off included artworks, as well as a $40,000 lunch with Anderson Cooper and a $50,000 lunch date with Mike Myers.

The event raised more than $3.7 million to fight HIV and AIDS.

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