Pastoral letter

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Not to be confused with Pastoral epistles.

A Pastoral letter, often called simply a pastoral, is an open letter addressed by a bishop to the clergy or laity of his diocese, or to both, containing either general admonition, instruction or consolation, or directions for behaviour in particular circumstances. In the Catholic Church such letters are also sent out regularly at particular ecclesiastical seasons, particularly at the beginning of fasts. In most episcopal church bodies, clerics are often required to read out pastoral letters of superior bishops to their congregations.

In the non-episcopal Protestant churches the name pastoral letter is given to any open letter addressed by a pastor to his congregation, but more especially to that customarily issued at certain seasons, for example, by the moderator of a Presbyterian assembly or the chairman of a Congregational or Baptist union.

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