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Victoria police are planning a major security operation for the appearance of George Pell at the child sexual abuse royal commission in response to concerns about protecting him from angry victims.

Cardinal Pell, the Vatican’s third most senior official, has retained one of Australia’s most expensive barristers, Allan Myers QC, for what could be a make-or-break appearance in Melbourne on December 14.

The Catholic Church will pick up Mr Myers’s bill, which could be up to $20,000 a day.

Among the security concerns, abuse survivors have suggested they will hold protests to coincide with the hearing. One has threatened a dramatic demonstration inside the hearing room in front of Cardinal Pell.

The commission begins hearings in Melbourne on November 24. The first two weeks will focus on Melbourne and the third week on Ballarat, after which Cardinal Pell will give evidence.

Hearings that had been scheduled for Ballarat have been moved to Melbourne, partly because of security concerns, police said. Many in Ballarat are angry at what they see as an insufficient response by the church to the abuse they suffered.

Cardinal Pell was not in charge of Ballarat but while he was a priest he lived for a time in the presbytery with Gerald Ridsdale. Based on number of convictions, Ridsdale is the worst pedophile in any Australian church.

After parents forced Ridsdale out of Mortlake, in the Ballarat diocese in September 1982, a committee decided to move him to another parish. Minutes show Cardinal Pell was at that meeting. It has not been established whether Ridsdale’s pedophilia was discussed.

Ridsdale, now in jail, was moved to different parishes for 26 years after first sexually abusing a child. His convictions involve 54 children aged between six and 16 between 1961 and 1987. He is believed to have raped hundreds more but most decided not to prosecute.

Cardinal Pell lived in the East Ballarat presbytery with Ridsdale in 1973, and has said he did not know Ridsdale was a pedophile.

Bishop Ronald Mulkearns was responsible for the Ballarat diocese. It is not known whether, for health reasons, he will be able to give evidence to the commission.