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Pope Francis warns in TED talk: 'Power can ruin you'

  • In a TED talk, Pope Francis warned those in power to act responsibly or "your power will ruin you."
  • The pope addressed the connection between the rich and powerful and the less fortunate.
  • "Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: 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.
Pope Francis speaks during the TED Conference, urging people to connect with and understand others, during a video presentation at the annual scientific, cultural and academic event in Vancouver, Canada, April 25, 2017.
Glenn Chapman | AFP | Getty Images
Pope Francis speaks during the TED Conference, urging people to connect with and understand others, during a video presentation at the annual scientific, cultural and academic event in Vancouver, Canada, April 25, 2017.

Pope Francis, an outspoken champion of science and technology, gave his own TED talk Tuesday night, speaking from the Vatican with a three-part message calling for a "revolution of tenderness" and warning those in power to act responsibly or "your power will ruin you."

The pontiff, seated at a desk and speaking in Italian for almost 18 minutes, looked directly at the camera, gesturing frequently in a folksy, TED-style manner. The remarks were presented on the second night of the TED2017 conference in Vancouver.

TED began in 1984 as a conference focusing on Technology, Entertainment and Design and now covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues.

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Bruno Giussani, TED's international curator, spent a year trying to get the pope to present, The Washington Post reports. When the pontiff appeared on screen, "the room erupted in applause," the newspaper said.

In his remarks, the pope addressed the connection between the rich and powerful and the less fortunate, with a pointed appeal to those with wealth and influence.

He called for a "revolution of tenderness" toward the weak, the poor, children and the "sick and polluted earth" by everyone, particularly by the strong.

"Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: 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. There is a saying in Argentina: 'Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.' You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don't connect your power with humility and tenderness."

His remarks also addressed the concerns of the sick, of migrants "in search of a brighter future" and of prison inmates, asking why these people faced such heavy burdens and not the pope himself.

"I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing," he said. "I could have very well ended up among today's 'discarded' people. And that's why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: 'Why them and not me?'"

Francis once again showed strong support for scientific and technological innovation but added it would be "wonderful" if such advancements went hand in hand with more equality and social inclusion.

"How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us," he said.

"Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the 'culture of waste,' which doesn't concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people," he said.

While the pope noted that the future of humankind is not exclusively in the hands of politicians and leaders of big companies and that "we all need each other," he did issue a pointed message for those with power and wealth.

"People's paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people," he said. "And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves 'respectable,' of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road."