Reports say Francis is emerging as a favourite to win the Nobel Peace Prize next week.

The Catholic Church's leader is one of the 278 nominees for the prize this year, a record number. Most are individuals but the nominees include more than 40 organisations.

No pope has ever gotten the Nobel Peace Prize since its inception in 1901 reportedly due to some omissions including Pope John II.

President Barack Obama won it in 2009.

Other nominees  include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Edward Snowden, who leaked vast numbers of US secrets, and Malala Yousafzai, the teenager from the Swat valley Pakistan who was victim of an assassination attempt by the Taliban and who has gone on to achieve an international profile in her campaigns for women's education and other rights. The $1.24 million award will be announced next Friday in Oslo.

The Christian Post reports that bookmakers Paddy Power have Pope Francis as the favourite at 9/4. He was nominated by the Argentine parliament because of his work in bringing peace to Syria. His sponsor Oscar Martinez said he was a man who had been

Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Prio), an independent research institute, did not nominate anyone but each year publishes his own list of the shortlist.

This year he put Pope Francis at the top, followed by Snowden and Yousafzai. His fourth favourite is Denis Mukwege, a surgeon from Congo who has played a prominent international role in combating sexual violence. Mukwege is the second favourite at Paddy Power, at 5/1.

An article on the Prio website states:

Prio notes that speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2014, the Pope called for a and that the need for a new approach also figured centrally in his Papal statement.