Pastoral care is an ancient model of emotional and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and traditions.
Definition of pastoral role
Historically Christian in its origins, the pastoral-care movement has expanded to embrace many different faiths.
...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 (Pss 78: 52; 23).
Cure of souls
In some denominations of Christianity, the cure of souls (Latin: cura animarum), an archaic translation which is better rendered today as "care of souls" is the exercise by priests of their office. This typically embraces instruction, by sermons, admonitions and administration of sacraments, to the congregation over which they have authority from the church. In countries where the Roman Catholic Church acted as the national church, the "cure" was not only over a congregation or congregations, but over a district. The assignment of a priest to a district subdividing a diocese was a process begun in the 4th century AD. The term parish as applied to this district comes from the Greek word for district, παρоικία.
There are many assumptions about what a pastor's care is. Commonly, a pastor's main job is to preach messages in mainline Protestant churches, but in addition to preaching sermons, pastors are also expected to be involved in local ministries, such as hospital chaplaincy, visitation, funerals, weddings and organizing religious activities. "Pastoral care", therefore, is both encouraging their local congregation, and bringing new people into the church. This is not to say that the congregation is not to be involved in both activities, but that the pastor should be the initiator.
Roman Catholic Church
In Roman Catholic theology, pastoral care 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 care is considered to be the responsibility of all the baptized. Understood in the broad sense of "helping others," pastoral care is the responsibility of all Christians. Sacramental pastoral care 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 care 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 "pastoral associates", lay people who serve in ministerial or administrative roles, assisting the pastor 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. However, these tasks are also—and primarily—a part of the role of the ordained clergy, especially the deacons and priests assigned to the parish, who are entrusted with administering most of the Sacraments. 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 care 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, and this involves their spirituality. It is common for Youth workers/ministers to be involved in pastoral care and are required to have a qualification in counseling before entering into this arm of ministry.
The pastoral obligations of Orthodox clergymen are outlined by St. John Chrysostom (347–407) in his treatise On the Priesthood. This is perhaps the first really great pastoral work ever 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.
- Arnold, Bruce Makoto, "Shepherding a Flock of a Different Fleece: A Historical and Social Analysis of the Unique Attributes of the African American Pastoral Caregiver”. The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Vol. 66, No. 2. (June 2012) 
- Multi-faith Centre, University of Canberra, 2013, http://www.canberra.edu.au/multifaith-centre/pastoral-care/pastoral-worker
- Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction (San Francisco, HarperOne, 2006).
- Emmanuel Yartekwei Lartey, Pastoral Theology in an Intercultural World (Cleveland, (OH), Pilgrim Press, 2006).
- Neil Pembroke, Renewing Pastoral Practice: Trinitarian Perspectives on Pastoral Care and Counselling (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2006) (Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology).
- Beth Allison Barr, The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England (Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2008) (Gender in the Middle Ages, 3).
- George R. Ross, Evaluating Models of Christian Counseling (Eugene (OR), Wipf and Stock, 2011).
- St. Thomas Aquinas and the Third Millennium, by Leonard Boyle.
- The Pastoral Nature of Vatican II: An Evaluation, by Brunero Gherardini. Translation of: Sull'indole pastorale del Vaticano II: una valutazione in Concilio Vaticano II, un concilio pastorale (Frigento, Italy: Casa Mariana Editrice, 2011).