This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article may need to be rewritten to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. You can help. The talk page may contain suggestions. (November 2021) This article contains wording that promotes the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information. Please remove or replace such wording and instead of making proclamations about a subject's importance, use facts and attribution to demonstrate that importance. (November 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message) This article's factual accuracy is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help to ensure that disputed statements are reliably sourced. (November 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message) The neutrality of this article is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. (November 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Pastoral care, or cure of souls, refers to emotional, social and spiritual support.[1][original research?] The term is considered inclusive of distinctly non-religious forms of support, as well as support for people from religious communities.[2][3][4] It is also an important form of support found in many spiritual and religious traditions.


Modern context

Pastoral care as a contemporary term is distinguished from traditional pastoral ministry, which is primarily Christian and tied to Christian beliefs. Institutional pastoral care departments in Europe are increasingly multi-faith and inclusive of non-religious, humanist approaches to providing support and comfort.

Just as the theory and philosophy behind modern pastoral care are not dependent on any one set of beliefs or traditions, pastoral care itself is guided by a broad framework. This involves personal support and outreach and is rooted in a practice of relating with the inner world of individuals from all walks of life.[5][6]

Pastoral care is usually provided in the form of the practitioner and client sitting with each other and the client shares personal details while the practitioner keeps it private and offers guidance and counsel. [7] In many private schools in Australia, usually Catholic schools, homeroom is referred to as "PCG" (pastoral care group), "pastoral period", or simply "pastoral", where the teacher is called a "PCA" (pastoral care advisor). As in Romania, a 'PCA' also performs the role of a counsellor.

In Christianity


Pastoral Care is a Christian approach to improve mental distress and has been practiced since the formation of the Christian Church.[7][8] By offering guidance and counsel, it is an easy and often preferred contact point for religious people seeking help with psychological problems or personal issues.[7][8] The model for pastoral care is based on the stories about how Jesus was healing people.[8]

In the early church the term 'Poimenic' was used to describe this task of soul-care.[9] In the New Testament, the interactions that are described with the term "pastoral care" are also described with Paraklesis (Greek: παράκλησις paráklēsis) which broadly means "accompaniment", "encouragement", "admonition" and "consolation" (e.g. Rom 12:8; Phil 2:1; 1 Tim 4:13; 1 Thess 5:14).

Pastoral care occurs in various contexts, including congregations, hospital chaplaincy, crisis intervention, prison chaplaincy, psychiatry, telephone helplines, counseling centers, senior care facilities, disability work, hospices, end-of-life care, grief support, and more.

The term pastoral ministry relates to shepherds and their role caring for sheep. Christians were the first to adopt the term for metaphorical usage, although many religions and non-religious traditions place an emphasis on care and social responsibility.[10] In the West, pastoral ministry has since expanded into pastoral care embracing many different religions and non-religious beliefs.[1]

The Bible does not explicitly define the role of a pastor but associates it with teaching.[11] Pastoral ministry involves shepherding the flock.

…Shepherding involves protection, tending to needs, strengthening the weak, encouragement, feeding the flock, making provision, shielding, refreshing, restoring, leading by example to move people on in their pursuit of holiness, comforting, guiding (Ps 78:52; 23).[12]


In the ancient church, pastoral care primarily revolved around the Christian's struggle against sin, which jeopardized their ultimate salvation. The theologians Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea mainly understood this as the concern of individuals for their own souls.[13] Increasingly, the role of pastoral caregivers was seen as assisting individual Christians in this endeavor.[14] The first pastoral movement emerged among the Desert Fathers, who were often visited by Christians seeking advice; however, this was not yet referred to as pastoral care. Similarly, the early monastic-like communities served as such pastoral care centers. The letters of Basil of Ancyra, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom contain numerous examples of pastoral counsel; the term "pastoral care" shifted towards a concern for the souls of others[15]

At the transition to the Middle Ages, Gregory the Great composed the "Liber Regulae Pastoris", directed towards the Pope, one of the most influential books on pastoral care (cura) ever written.

During the Middle Ages, pastoral care was closely tied to the practice of the sacrament of penance, which included confession of sins, making amends, and absolution by the priest. Against the often mechanized routine, particularly from the monastic tradition, efforts were made to address this, such as by Bernard of Clairvaux. The Latin term "cura animarum" (care of souls) emerged as the proper responsibility of the bishop as the pastor responsible for individual Christians, which he usually delegated to a priest, typically the parish priest. In this sense, "cura animarum" is also used in today's canon law of the Roman Catholic Church.[13]

Among the Reformers, the emphasis shifted from the focus on sin to the emphasis on God's forgiveness and comfort, particularly evident in the works of Martin Luther and Heinrich Bullinger. In many cases, however, church discipline soon replaced pastoral care.

In the 19th century, the Protestant theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher established Practical Theology. He emphasized that pastoral care should strengthen the freedom and autonomy of individual members within a congregation. As early as 1777, the field of Pastoral Theology was introduced into the curriculum of the University of Vienna (Austria) under Franz Stephan Rautenstrauch, and was taught in the national language rather than Latin. In Germany, it was further developed and disseminated primarily by Johann Michael Sailer, and is considered a precursor to modern pastoral care.

In the United States, Anton Theophilus Boisen, one of the key figures in the American pastoral care movement, developed the concept of "Clinical Pastoral Training" in the 1920s. This concept integrated pastoral care, psychology, and education.

In the mid-1960s, the pastoral care movement spread to Germany through the Netherlands, leading to the development of Pastoral Psychology. In the theology of the regional churches (Landeskirchen), pastoral care with a focus on pastoral psychology remains a standard practice to this day.

Modern context

The field of pastoral care is nowadays very specialized. Browning (1993) divided Christian care giving practices into three different categories which are pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and pastoral psychotherapy. This distinction can still be found nowadays, especially in written English papers. According to this definition, pastoral care describes the general work of the clergy of taking care of the people in their community. This comprises funerals, hospital visits, birthday visits or dialogues that do not focus only on a specific problem.

Nowadays, there exist many approaches to pastoral care which vary according to their religious denomination. Many protestant christian approaches to pastoral care include contemporary psychological knowledge, which is reflected in the training of pastoral care practitioners. For example, in Germany, the distinctions and the curricula of the different pastoral care training approaches, are provided by the German Society for Pastoral Psychology (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pastoralpsychologie – DGfP). The five approaches are clinical pastoral care (Klinische Seelsorge Ausbildung - KSA), the group-organisation-system approach (Gruppe-Organisation, System), the Gestalt and psychodrama approach (Gestalt und Psychodrama), the person-centric approach (Personenzentriert) and the depth psychology approach (Tiefenpsychologie).[16]

Humanist and non-religious

Humanist groups, which act on behalf of non-religious people, have developed pastoral care offerings in response to growing demand for the provision of like-minded support from populations undergoing rapid secularisation, such as the UK.[2] Humanists UK, for example, manages the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network, a network of trained and accredited volunteers and professionals who operate throughout prisons, hospitals, and universities in the UK.[17] The terms pastoral care and pastoral support are preferred because these sound less religious than terms such as chaplaincy.[2] Surveys have shown that more than two thirds of patients support non-religious pastoral care being available in British institutions.[2] Similar offerings are available from humanist groups around Europe and North America.

Pastoral care vs pastoral ministry

Compare and contrast pastoral care and pastoral ministry
Pastoral care Pastoral ministry
Postmodern Classical
Recognition of systems of belief Implementation of a system of belief
Scientific Theology
Support: Counselling recognising values and principles; morals and ethics, narrative and systematic beliefs for individuals and small groups like families Support: From a particular systematic theology for the masses like organised religion
Workers: Pastoral Care Givers, Chaplains, Spiritual Accompanist, Spiritual Directors Workers: Clergy, Priest, Pastor, Ministers of Religion, Pastoral Counselling

Pastoral ministry


In Catholic theology, pastoral ministry for the sick and infirm is one of the most significant ways that members of the Body of Christ continue the ministry and mission of Jesus. Pastoral ministry is considered to be the responsibility of all the baptized. Understood in the broad sense of "helping others", pastoral ministry is the responsibility of all Christians. Sacramental pastoral ministry is the administration of the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, Matrimony) that is reserved to consecrated priests except for Baptism (in an emergency, anyone can baptize) and marriage, where the spouses are the ministers and the priest is the witness. Pastoral ministry was understood differently at different times in history. A significant development occurred after the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 (more on this in the link to Father Boyle's lecture below). The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) applied the word "pastoral" to a variety of situations involving care of souls; on this point, go to the link to Monsignor Gherardini's lecture).

Many Catholic parishes employ lay ecclesial ministers as "pastoral associates" or "pastoral assistants", lay people who serve in ministerial or administrative roles, assisting the priest in his work, but who are not ordained clerics. They are responsible, among other things, for the spiritual care of frail and housebound as well as for running a multitude of tasks associated with the sacramental life of the Church. If priests have the necessary qualifications in counseling or in psychotherapy, they may offer professional psychological services when they give pastoral counseling as part of their pastoral ministry of souls. However, the church hierarchy under John Paul II and Benedict XVI has emphasized that the Sacrament of Penance, or Reconciliation, is for the forgiveness of sins and not counseling and as such should not be confused with or incorporated into the therapy given to a person by a priest, even if the therapist priest is also their confessor. The two processes, both of which are privileged and confidential under civil and canon law, are separate by nature.

Youth workers and youth ministers are also finding a place within parishes[citation needed], and this involves their spirituality. It is common for Youth workers/ministers to be involved in pastoral ministry and are required to have a qualification in counseling before entering into this arm of ministry.


The priesthood obligations of Orthodox clergymen are outlined by John Chrysostom (347–407) in his treatise On the Priesthood. It is perhaps the first pastoral work written, although he was only a deacon when he penned it. It stresses the dignity of the priesthood. The priest, it says, is greater than kings, angels, or parents, but priests are for that reason most tempted to pride and ambition. They, more than anyone else, need clear and unshakable wisdom, patience that disarms pride, and exceptional prudence in dealing with souls.


This section is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. (June 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

There are many assumptions about what a pastor's ministry is. The core practices of a pastor's ministry in mainline Protestant churches include leading worship, preaching, pastoral care, outreach, and supporting the work of the congregation. Theological Seminaries provide a curriculum that supports these key facets of ministry. Pastors are often expected to also be involved in local ministries, such as hospital chaplaincy, visitation, funerals, weddings and organizing religious activities. "Pastoral ministry" includes outreach, encouragement, support, counseling and other care for members and friends of the congregation. In many churches, there are groups like deacons that provide outreach and support, often led and supported by the pastor.

For example, the Evangelical Wesleyan Church instructs clergy with the following words: "We should endeavor to assist those under our ministry, and to aid in the salvation of souls by instructing them in their homes. ... Family religion is waning in many branches. And what avails public preaching alone, though we could preach like angels? We must, yea, every traveling preacher must instruct the people from house to house."[18] The Presbyterian Church (USA) is structured so that there is parity between lay leaders and pastors. Deacons and elders are ordained, with specific duties.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b "University of Canberra, Multi-faith Centre". Archived from the original on 2013-06-21. Pastoral care is an ancient model of emotional and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and traditions. [...] Historically Christian but is now a multi faith community.
  2. ^ a b c d Hélène Mulholland (25 October 2017). "Jane Flint: 'Having an atheist chaplain is about patient choice'". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  3. ^ "NHS Chaplaincy Guidelines 2015" (PDF). NHS England. Retrieved 18 January 2019. Act new guidance is provided for the care of patients and service users whatever their religion or belief.
  4. ^ Savage, David (2018). "3: Public perceptions of chaplains and non-religious pastoral carers 4:Religious and non-religious beliefs in society". Non-Religious Pastoral Care: A Practical Guide. Routledge. pp. 34–56. ISBN 9781351264464. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  5. ^ "NSW Government, Department of Education". 26 July 2021.
  6. ^ "University of Canberra, Multi-faith Centre". Archived from the original on 2013-06-21.
  7. ^ a b c Rizzuto, Ana-María (March 1998). "Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Pastoral Guidance". Journal of Pastoral Care. 52 (1): 69–78. doi:10.1177/002234099805200109. ISSN 0022-3409. S2CID 149114561.
  8. ^ a b c Woldemichael, Meaza T.; Broesterhuizen, Marcel; Liègeois, Axel (December 2013). "Christian Pastoral Care and Psychotherapy: A Need for Theoretical Clarity". Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. 67 (4): 6. doi:10.1177/154230501306700406. ISSN 1542-3050. PMID 24720245. S2CID 28844147.
  9. ^ Cole, Allan Hugh (2010-07-09). "What Makes Care Pastoral?". Pastoral Psychology. 59 (6): 711–723. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0296-5. ISSN 0031-2789. S2CID 145348873.
  10. ^ "University of Canberra, Multi-faith Centre". Archived from the original on 2013-06-21.
  11. ^ "Ephesians 4:10–12". Retrieved 2008-12-09.
  12. ^ Rowdon, Harold (2002). Church Leaders Hand Book. Partnership. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-900128-23-3.
  13. ^ a b Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche (in German).
  14. ^ Morgenthaler, Christoph (2012-04-04), "Verzeichnis der Veröffentlichungen", Nachdenkliche Seelsorge - seelsorgliches Nachdenken, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, pp. 342–351, doi:10.13109/9783666624179.342, ISBN 978-3-525-62417-3, retrieved 2023-08-20
  15. ^ "Philip Schaff: NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  16. ^ "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pastoralpsychologie e.V. - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pastoralpsychologie". Retrieved 2023-08-18.
  17. ^ "Humanist Pastoral Support". Humanists UK. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  18. ^ The Discipline of the Evangelical Wesleyan Church. Evangelical Wesleyan Church. 2015. p. 108.
  19. ^ (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church (1994). The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Office of the General Assembly. OCLC 31760324.