Pope and Spain's prime minister visit maskless at Vatican

Pope Francis has met with the Spanish prime minister at the Vatican, which has had a rash of COVID-19 infections confirmed in recent days

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis met with the Spanish prime minister Saturday at the Vatican, which has had a rash of COVID-19 infections confirmed in recent days, but neither man used a face a mask during the public part of their meeting.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wore a mask when he arrived in a Vatican courtyard. But everyone sat unmasked immediately before and after his closed-door talks with Francis at the Apostolic Palace, including during the speech the pontiff gave in Spanish to Sanchez and his entourage.

Throughout the pandemic, Francis has received world leaders and posed with them for photos, as he did with Sanchez, often posed nearly shoulder-to-shoulder and without wearing a mask.

Spain this week became the first country in Western Europe with more than 1 million confirmed virus cases. Sanchez has said the actual number of infections in his country could be more than triple that but is unknown due to testing gaps.

In his speech, Francis told his Spanish visitors that politics is "an act of charity, nobility, and often leads one to sacrifice one’s life.” He said the mission of a politician is to help a nation to progress. The pontiff also said it was “very sad” when ideologies drive the destiny of a nation.