German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki thanked Pope Francis for 'fearlessly' calling Catholics in Germany to be a missionary church in a letter published Saturday.

"It is refreshing how clearly and fearlessly the Holy Father also puts into words the terms which we often express in this country only with hesitation and a certain timidity, which we have almost lost: repentance, conversion, mission," Cardinal Woelki said in a statement June 29.

Pope Francis published a more than 5,700 word letter addressed to Catholics in Germany Saturday calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the "erosion" and "decline of the faith" in the country.

The Archbishop of Cologne said that it is obvious that Pope Francis shares the concern of many German Catholics: "How can we preserve the faith today and pass it on to the next generation?"

According to research recently published by the University of Freiburg, the number of officially registered Catholics in Germany is predicted to halve by 2060.

"The forthcoming process of change cannot respond exclusively to external facts and needs, such as the sharp decline in the birth rate and the ageing of communities, which do not allow a normal generational change to be considered," Pope Francis said in his letter.

"A true process of change … makes demands that arise from our Christianity and from the very dynamics of the evangelization of the Church; such a process requires pastoral conversion," he said.

Cardinal Woelki responded, "the fact that Pope Francis even speaks of 'erosion and decay of faith' in Germany shows that he really does not gloss over anything and also encourages us not to close our eyes to reality."

This is "first and foremost a crisis of faith," the German cardinal said.

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"Let us be infected by the 'hopeful serenity' that Pope Francis has written to us with this letter. It is the serenity of all who are fully devoted to Christ," Woelki said.

"Let's take the words of the Holy Father, let's take them seriously! Let us carry the Good News into the world of today!"