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A pastor is a person in a religion who provides pastoral care . This can be done on a full-time basis by specially commissioned officials who usually receive a specific training and ordination or ordination for this purpose , but it is also done by members of the religious communities without their own commission. The job of a pastor includes spiritual accompaniment and support for people, especially in life crises, religious instruction and the management or participation in church services . In the case of public officials, the tasks also include a head, management and supervisory function with overall responsibility.

Depending on the assignment, the tasks relate to spatially delimited pastoral care units (territorial pastoral care, community pastoral care) or pastoral care for people in certain life situations (special pastoral care, "categorical pastoral care", for example as hospital chaplain , military chaplain or emergency chaplain ). The churches operate advisory and support facilities with appropriately trained employees for these fields of work.


In the Catholic and Protestant churches , the full-time pastors are the bishops and pastors . Bishops (in Austria superintendents ) have an overall responsibility for the pastoral care in a diocese or a country church or superintendent, pastor in a parish or congregation . Also Pastor (from latin pastor , Hirt ') is a common term for a full-office pastors with management tasks.

Catholic understanding

According to the Catholic understanding, pastors are people who have been commissioned by the Church to perform pastoral tasks.

Catholic canon law distinguishes between two terms: on the one hand pastoral care (cura animarum), which can be exercised by lay people and clergy and is connected with partial tasks from the church services, on the other hand "pastoral care" (cura pastoralis) , which is a comprehensive church leadership task Office holders (bishop, priest or deacon ) is reserved.

In Catholic church law, pastoral care in a parish is primarily entrusted to a pastor as the parish's "own shepherd" ( pastor proprius ):

"The parish is a certain community of believers that is established in a particular church and whose pastoral care ( cura pastoralis ) is entrusted to a pastor as its own pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop."

- Codex Iuris Canonici can. 515.1

Ordination to a priest is necessary for “comprehensive pastoral care” ( plena animarum cura ) . ( CIC can. 150).

Derived from this and under the direction of a responsible pastor, pastoral tasks ( cura animarum ) are also performed by full-time employees who are sent or commissioned who are not clerics (e.g. pastoral assistants , pastoral consultants, etc.). They can also be assigned partial management tasks.

The Second Vatican Council opened the priesthood of all believers as an expanded space for pastoral action, which is not limited to the dispensing of sacraments by clerics , but enables the baptized and confirmed believers to become involved independently in the context of pastoral care as healing, comforting and giving advice.

The council writes:

“The apostolate of the laity is participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. To this apostolate everyone is appointed by the Lord himself through baptism and confirmation. [...] The laity are specially called to make the Church present and effective in those places and in the circumstances where the Church can only become the salt of the earth through her . Thus, by virtue of the gifts given to them, every layperson is at the same time a witness and living instrument of the mission of the Church herself "according to the measure of the gift of Christ" ( Eph 4,7  EU ) "

- Dogmatic Consitution Lumen Gentium 33


In Judaism , pastoral care is mainly exercised by the rabbi . Its function is primarily the teaching of the Torah and the conduct of church services together with the Chasan (cantor) as well as the sermon . His tasks also include pastoral care for individual people through visits to the sick, bereavement support, care for the elderly and support in life crises, the implementation of weddings and funerals .


The term “pastoral care” is unknown in Islam and there are hardly any professional Muslim pastors. However, the fields of activity associated with this in other religions also play a role there. Every devout Muslim is empowered and called by God to take on social and spiritual responsibility towards his fellow human beings, so that caring for the soul, both individually and socially, is part of everyday Islamic life. Social engagement, neighborhood care, relatives, visiting the sick and caring for the elderly are firmly anchored in the history and everyday practice of the Muslim community. They form the basis for an Islamic pastoral care concept, which also includes diakonia and liturgy , which according to the sociologist and theologian Cemil Şahinöz must be part of Islamic pastoral care. In Central Europe, there is an increased need for trained Muslim pastors, as there is a demand for institutionalized and professionalized competence in hospitals and prisons, in emergency pastoral care and also in community pastoral care.

The main bearers of Islamic pastoral care are the imam as the most important contact person, as well as the community and the family. These need support from people who are suitable and qualified for Islamic pastoral care.

Fields of application for pastors

See also


  • Heribert Hallermann , pastoral care worker - a protected term? Church law clarifications, in: Lebendige Seelsorge 55 (2004), Heft 3, 210–214.
  • Cemil Şahinöz: Pastoral Care in Islam. Theory and Practice in Germany. Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, Wiesbaden 2018, 978-3-658-22135-5 (Dissertation, Bielefeld 2018)
  • Elisabeth Schieffer: Pastor . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 9 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2000, Sp. 390 f .
  • Georg Wenz, Talat Kamran (ed.): Pastoral care and Islam in Germany. Developments, challenges and opportunities. Speyer 2012 (152 pages)

Web links

Wiktionary: Pastor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Pastoral care areas , accessed on May 27, 2020.
  2. German text ; Latin text
  3. Elisabeth Schieffer: Pastor . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 9 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2000, Sp. 390 f .
  4. Lumen gentium
  5. Function and Authority of the Rabbi , accessed on May 27, 2020.
  6. pastoral care and Islam in Germany. Developments, challenges and opportunities , accessed on May 27, 2020.
  7. ^ Cemil Şahinöz: Pastoral care in Islam. Theory and Practice in Germany. Wiesbaden GmbH, Wiesbaden 2018, pp. 185f. [1]
  8. Pastoral Care , accessed on May 27, 2020.