Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has awarded the Order of Friendship to Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All Orient, Ignatius IV.
The ceremony took place at the Patriarch's residence in the old part of Damascus near the Cathedral of the Dormition of Our Lady, according to the Orthodox Church Info blog.
Ignatius IV indicated he has personal acquaintance of all the four supreme hierarchs of the Russian Church who have held the office of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia during his service in the position of the Patriarch of Antioch. One of them is Kirill -- the current Russian Patriarch.
The Antiochian Eastern Orthodox Church embraces the Orthodox Christian population of Syria, Lebanon, and Mesopotamia. It was on the territory of ancient Antioch that the disciples and followers of Jesus started calling themselves "Christians."