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Associated Press

NEW YORK — Elton John has called Pope Francis "my hero" for his compassion and push to accept gays in the Catholic church, at his annual AIDS benefit.

John hosted the event, "An Enduring Vision: A Benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation," Tuesday night in New York City. He says Francis is pushing boundaries in the church and told the crowd: "Make this man a saint now, OK?"

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays earlier this month, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families. An earlier draft of the document offered a welcoming tone of acceptance, but that was stripped away.

John called Francis "courageous" and "fearless."