Elton hails Pope Francis 'my hero' for acceptance of gays by church

By Mesfin Fekadu

Elton John called Pope Francis "my hero" for his compassion and push to accept gays by the Catholic Church, at his annual AIDS benefit.

John hosted the event last night in New York. He said Francis is pushing boundaries in the Church and told the crowd: "Make this man a saint now."

"Ten years ago one of the biggest obstacles in the fight against AIDS was the Catholic Church. Today we have a pope that speaks out about it," said John, earning cheers from the attendees at Cipraini's on Wall Street.

"He is a compassionate, loving man who wants everybody to be included in the love of God," John said of the pope. "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."

"Good evening to all of you, the queen of England," NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said as the crowd laughed.

"I'm from Queens, but I think there's a different interpretation there."

More jokes came throughout the night, where attendees included Elton's husband, David Furnish, Neil Patrick Harris, Alec Baldwin, Matt Lauer and host Anderson Cooper.

A lunch date with the newsmen was part of the auction, dubbed the "great anchor sandwich," and it sold for $40,000.

Mike Myers jumped onstage to offer himself for a lunch date following the bid for Cooper and Lauer, and raised $50,000.

A Damien Hirst painting sold for $270,000 and a Robert Mapplethorpe sold for $90,000.

John, who sat while the honorees gave speeches, said he was recovering from a knee operation that took place last week.

He performed a rousing set at the end of the night, singing hits like "Tiny Dancer" and "Your Song" while playing the piano.