Bulgaria holds prayers to end suicides and despair
Bulgaria has begun three days of special prayers requested by the country's president because of national pessimism and a spate of suicides.
The move comes after seven people set themselves on fire, protesting against poverty and corruption. Five died and two were severely injured.
Religious leaders from various faiths agreed to hold special prayers.
Recent protests throughout the EU's poorest nation forced the previous government to resign in February.
The prayer appeal from President Rosen Plevneliev followed weeks of protests against high electricity bills, poverty and corruption.
He urged people to "pray for an end to the suicides and for passing through the crisis with patience and dignity."
Religious leaders from the Christian Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian and Protestant churches, together with Muslim and Jewish leaders, will host special prayers across the nation on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Addressing the nation, President Plevneliev said "Bulgarians, we need more faith and hope in our own well-being and success.
"To overcome difficulties we must all learn the lessons and believe more. Faith has preserved our nation over the centuries. And it will now help us to believe in our strength and our future."
Public hospitals began offering free psychological counselling to citizens earlier in the week.
Aside from the self-immolations, almost 200 people have committed suicide this year, National Health Centre doctor Vladimir Nakov told Trud newspaper.