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Juan Carlos Cruz
Martin Sigal

Juan Carlos Cruz

Juan Carlos Cruz

Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

This year, Pope Francis declared that “being homosexual isn’t a crime” and that laws criminalizing gay and bisexual people are “unjust.” Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man, is partly responsible for this incredible course correction from the Roman Catholic Church. For the past two years, Cruz has served as a trusted adviser to Pope Francis, who appointed him in 2021 to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. For Cruz, a D.C.-based communications executive at the Livent Corporation, his appointment by the Vatican is a recent accomplishment in a life full of them.

Cruz, hailing from Santiago, Chile, is a clerical abuse survivor. While he cut his teeth as a young journalist, he also found his voice as an advocate for others like him, calling on the church to root out abuse, especially of minors. Cruz moved to the U.S. two decades ago, entered the corporate sphere, authored two books about sexual abuse, and made a name for himself as an activist willing to challenge the Catholic Church. After years of describing the horrors committed by powerful Chilean priest Fernando Karadima, Cruz convinced Pope Francis in 2018 to launch an investigation. Eventually the Chilean bishops — those who committed the abuses and the ones who allowed them — were forced out.

Cruz realized Francis has the ability to listen and evolve. The respect was reciprocal between the two men, with Francis appointing Cruz to the commission, which proposes “initiatives to the Roman Pontiff…for the purposes of promoting local responsibility in the particular churches for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults,” according to the Vatican. Cruz considers the Holy See a friend and is ebullient over the announcement Francis made in January.

“One of my biggest achievements this year was collaborating with Pope Francis to publicly denounce the criminalization of homosexuality globally,” Cruz says. “This landmark statement, unprecedented in history, has been echoed by other world leaders, potentially saving lives in the process.”

Cruz somehow finds time to advocate for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, fighting for civilians and soldiers suffering under the Russian invasion. He’s received two medals from the Ukrainian government for his contributions. Closer to home, Cruz serves on the board of directors for GLAAD.

“Equality is nonnegotiable,” Cruz says. “It’s crucial that we not only challenge discriminatory laws within the U.S. but also condemn inhumane legislation globally, such as Uganda’s criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community that carries the death penalty. It’s unacceptable.”


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