Cástor Oswaldo Azuaje Pérez, O.C.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Trujillo, Venezuela, died Friday morning 8 January 2021 in Valera (Trujillo), Venezuela at age 69 from complications of covid-19. His death was announced by the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela and the Discalced Carmelite General Curia.
Discerning his vocation to the Teresian Carmel, Oswaldo Azuaje entered the novitiate program of the Province of Aragonia-Valenza, Spain at the Desert of las Palmas, in Castile. He professed his first vows as a Discalced Carmelite friar on 12 October 1968.
Three years of philosophy studies followed in Zaragoza, and then Ajuaje pursued his theology studies with the Discalced Carmelites, completing first-year theology (1971–1972) at the historic Stella Maris seminary at Haifa, Israel and another three years (1972–1975) at the Teresianum in Rome.
On 31 August 1974 Oswaldo Azuaje pronounced his solemn vows; he was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 24 on Christmas Day, 25 December 1975 in Mérida, the city that was the cradle of his Carmelite vocation.
Azuaje returned to Rome to complete his theological studies. He earned a doctorate in Moral Theology summa cum laude from the Alfonsianum Academy in Rome in 1978. Nearly 20 years later, he would return to academic study and earn a diploma in spiritual theology in 1994 following a year of study at the Universidad de la Mística, CITeS in Avila, Spain.
As is the case with every Discalced Carmelite prelate, many years of rich and fruitful ministry followed, first in Costa Rica:
- Formator-assistant to the Master of Novices and Master of Simple Professed (1978 and 1984), where he was the formator for another future Discalced Carmelite bishop, Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
- Professor at the Interdiocesan Seminary of Paso Ancho, San José, and at the Intercongregational Theological Institute of Central America ITAC (1978 and 1984).
- Secretary of the Conference of Religious (CONCOR).
- Director of the Senderos Theological Journal
Azuaje then returned to Venezuela to serve with the Discalced Carmelite friars:
- Appointed formator of postulants and simple professed in 1984 at Barquisimeto
- Professor at the Divina Pastora Seminary.
- President of the Venezuelan Conference of Men and Women Religious CONVER Section and Provincial Delegate of the Discalced Carmelites of Venezuela from 1987 to 1990.
- Provincial delegate and formator of the Discalced Carmelites in Caracas (1990 and 1993).
- Member of the Board of Directors of the Joint Secretariat of Men and Women Religious SECORVE in Caracas.
- Professor for one year at the Institute of Theology for Religious ITER in Caracas.
- Superior of the Discalced Carmelite Community in Mérida in 1993.
- General Delegate of the Discalced Carmelites of Venezuela (1996 to July 1999).
- Appointed Master of Novices in 1996.
- Professor at San Buenaventura Seminary in Mérida in 1993.
- Spiritual Director at the seminary from 1999.
- President of the Regional CONVER-Mérida from 1999 to 2003.
- Episcopal Vicar of Consecrated Life of the Archdiocese of Mérida, appointed by Monsignor Baltasar Porras in 1998.
- Member of the Latin American Combined Commission of the Carmelite Orders from 1994 to 2003.
- Superior and formator in the Carmelite formation house at Barquisimeto.
- Between 2002 and 2003 he was part of the commission that participated in the writing of the document on Religious Life in the Venezuelan Plenary Council.
- That same year 2002 he became president of the Regional Delegation of CONVER- Barquisimeto; this commitment would last three years.
- In 2005, he was named General Delegate of the Discalced Carmelites of Venezuela.
It was on 30 June 2007 that the Vatican Press Office published in the Osservatore Romano and announced on Radio Vaticana the nomination of Cástor Oswaldo Azuaje Pérez, O.C.D. as Auxiliary Bishop of Maracaibo, Venezuela and Titular Bishop of Vertara.
On his Episcopal coat of arms appears our familiar Carmelite symbol of the three stars with the motto from the Carmelite Rule: “To live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Azuaje was ordained 31 August 2007 in the Church of San Tarcisio in Maracaibo. The principal consecrator was Ubaldo Ramón Santana Sequera, F.M.I., the Archbishop of Maracaibo. The principal co-consecrators were Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, the Archbishop of Mérida and Archbishop Giacinto Berloco, the Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela.
On Holy Tuesday 3 April 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Azuaje to serve as bishop of the diocese of Trujillo, Venezuela. He took possession of this diocesan see on 9 June 2012.
In the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, Bishop Azuaje assumed various responsibilities. He was President of the Commission on Youth and University Ministry for two triennia. From January 2015 to January 2018 he was President of the Commission on Consecrated Life. He currently served as a member of the Liturgy Commission of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference.
Bishop Azuaje was unafraid to exercise his prophetic ministry as a Carmelite bishop, defending the rights of downtrodden Venezuelan citizens. In 2019 he deplored the power blackout ordered by the government of dictator Nicolás Maduro, telling the Catholic NGO Aid to the Church in Need about the solidarity of the people at that moment. They were “looking for the Lord in every brother who needs us. The days of the blackout were an opportunity to witness great examples of solidarity… in the sharing of food and drinking water, gasoline for the vehicles and many other examples of people sharing their sufferings and joys together.”
As he embarked on his episcopal ministry in 2007, he confided to our friars at the Discalced Carmelite General Curia:
To leave the Order which has been my home — where I have lived and breathed — it isn’t easy. It’s hard for a sinner like myself, who has lived in the Carmelite Order as my “maternal home”, to leave the Teresian Carmel where I’ve received everything.Cf. Communicationes no. 85
We join the entire family of the Teresian Carmel and the Church in Venezuela in mourning the untimely passing of Bishop Oswaldo Azuaje. With all the Discalced Carmelites worldwide we unite in prayer for the repose of the soul of this great servant of God:
you are the glory of those who serve you.
Look lovingly on our departed brother,
united in following Christ and his Mother
by the waters of baptism and the bonds of Carmel.
In your mercy
grant him everlasting sight of you,
his Creator and Redeemer.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Aid to the Church in Need, Bishops speak out over electricity blackout in Venezuela
Discalced Carmelite newsletter Communicationes, n. 85, 2007.07.15
Episcopal profile at Catholic-Hierarchy
Facebook page Curia Generalizia Carmelitani Scalzi
Obituary in El Pitazo online
Obituary in La Mañana Digital
Obituary in Religión Digital
Obituary of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference
Tribute on the anniversary of his episcopal ordination from Radio Paz 98.9
Wikipedia español entry for Bishop Azuaje