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Pope and Spain's prime minister visit maskless at Vatican

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.

The Vatican has said 13 Swiss Guards, members of the colorfully attired division of the Holy See’s security operations, recently tested positive for the coronavirus. A person staying at the same guest house in Vatican City where the pope lives also recently tested positive.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, center, leaves the San Damaso courtyard after his meeting with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)

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.

The Vatican said the Spanish prime minister also held talks with the Holy See’s foreign minister, discussing matters that included “the current health emergency, the process of European integration and migration.”

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.

Vatican Swiss Guards, wearing masks to curb the spread of COVID-19, leave the St. Damaso courtyard after Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez meeting with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)

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.

Spain's Prime minister Pedro Sanchez, left, is welcomed by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza as he arrives at the San Damaso courtyard to meet Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, right, arrives at the San Damaso courtyard to meet Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, center, leaves the San Damaso courtyard after his meeting with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (AP PhotoAlessandra Tarantino)