Very Rev Dr Sheilagh Kesting has been named a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope Francis.
The Church of Scotland said Dr Kesting is the first of its ministers to receive the award and she is understood to be only the second non-Catholic woman in the UK to be honoured in such a way.
The award is in recognition of her years working to build good relationships among churches in Scotland.
Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh presented Dr Kesting with the honour.
He told her: “We wrote to the Pope and we asked him if we could have a papal decoration for you and he said yes. So this is from Pope Francis and it is a declaration making you a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great.”
Dr Kesting, the moderator in 2007, said she was left speechless when she found out about the surprise honour.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed,” she said.
“I am delighted that the relationship between our two churches has become strong enough that this kind of acknowledgement can be given from one to the other, and it means so much that it comes from Pope Francis.”