Some time ago, a blogger whom I read and admire wrote : "the centre of communion is the person of the bishop of Rome". I wonder if this is quite accurately focussed.
A long time ago the well-know Anglican Catholic theologian Eric Mascall, described by Fr Aidan Nichols as a separated Magister fidei Catholicae, pointed out that there are papal vacancies, and this must have a significance. History provides us with examples as long as some three years, but even if the longest papal interregnum were only three minutes the logical problem would remain. During that three minutes, would we have to say that the Church Universal had no visible and earthly centre of unity?
I feel we are on safer ground in asserting that the centre of communion is the Roman Church, which at the beginning of the second century S Ignatius decribed as presiding over the Agape. The Roman Church, unlike the Roman Pontiff, never for a moment ceases to exist. And the Roman Pontiff himself is not a conceptually isolated individual, an episcopus vagans. His existence and meaning and ministry and significance are rooted in and inseparable from the fact that he is Bishop of Rome, Peter's Church, where Peter still speaks with authority.
My proposal in no way disturbs the definitions of Vatican I about papal Primacy and Infallibility. The bishop of any church is that church's authorised Spirit-endowed teacher, equipped with what S Irenaeus described as his charisma certum veritatis [reliable gift of truth]. So the bishop of Rome is the one who authoritatively articulates the teaching which the Roman Church authentically preserves and expresses.