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The biggest takeaways from Pope Francis’ groundbreaking TED talk

Pope Francis became the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to deliver a TED talk Tuesday. In the talk, part of TED’s annual conference, the Holy Father wove science, wisdom from Mother Teresa and the parable of the Good Samaritan to stress the importance of human solidarity.

“We have so much to do, and we must do it together,” the pope said during his nearly 18-minute talk.

The TED talk, which took more than a year to plan, was taped in Vatican City this month and played to an audience at TED2017 in Vancouver, according to a blog post on TED’s website.

“When I first approached the Vatican, it’s fair to say that not many there knew of TED,” Bruno Giussani, TED’s international curator, said. “So there was a lot of explaining to do.”

What Pope Francis said

The Holy Father delivered several messages during his talk:

  • Interdependence: “None of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I,’ separated from the other,” he said. “We can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.” The pope cited science to illustrate his point, because it “points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.”
  • Inclusion: The pope used the story of the Good Samaritan, calling it “the story of today’s humanity.” “Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough,” he said. “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number.”
  • Hope: “Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around,” Pope Francis said.
  • Tenderness: Defining it as “the love that comes close and becomes real” and “the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women,” the pope called on people and institutions with power to exhibit love and create change. “The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly,” he said. “If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

Why it matters

Pope Francis’s talk, which has nearly 175,000 views on YouTube and almost 800,000 views on TED’s website as of Thursday afternoon, is another example of his outreach using the web and social media.

“He conquered Twitter and Instagram because that’s where so many people around the world are living their lives in the digital space,” said Michael J. O’Loughlin, national correspondent for the Jesuit magazine America and the author of “The Tweetable Pope.” “This is just another example of taking his Gospel message where the most amount of people will hear it.”

As of April 2017, Pope Francis has 10.6 million Twitter users following @Pontifex and 3.8 million Instagram followers of @franciscus.

In the past, the pope has received attention for his work with the poor and groups in the margins. He’s reached wider audiences by commenting on issues that have long been seen as in opposition to Catholic values.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” he told reporters in 2013. During his visit to the U.S. in 2015, the pope met with one of his former students and his longtime partner.

Francis has said there are times when it is “morally necessary” for married couples to separate, emphasizing cases where marriages include abuse, exploitation and neglect. He’s also voiced possibly opening the priesthood to married men in certain instances.

Once again, said O’Loughlin, Francis took advantage of an opportunity to address a different group of people with this TED talk.

“He’s going to a place where maybe religious messages aren’t always heard,” O’Loughlin said. “He hangs out with the weak and marginalized, and he’s also comfortable hanging out with the powerful and influential to challenge them as well.”

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