Recent official documents affirm the pastoral council's origin in Vatican II's Decree on Bishops.
Since 1997, the Vatican has published five documents pertaining to pastoral councils. The two most recent especially affirm the traditional understanding of the council as sharing in the apostolate of the pastor, the apostolate of parish leadership.
- Ecclesia de mysterio, Instruction on Certain Questions, 1997
- Ecclesia in Asia, Apostolic Exhortation, 1999
- Novo millennio ineunte, Apostolic Letter, 2001
- The Priest, Pastor and Leader, Instruction of 2002
- Apostolorum successores, Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 2004